Saturday, May 31, 2014

Eldo, Eldo, Eldo

I love climbing in Eldorado Canyon. Certainly its proximity to my house (15 minutes away) is a big factor, but the climbing here is so engaging and the rock, generally, so good.

Friday, May 30th: Calypso/Reggae/Wind Ridge with Mark

At the crux of Calypso
Nothing special here, except for stellar rock and moderate climbing. That said, Calypso gives beginners lots of trouble. The protection is either tricky or sparse or both. Best to be very solid at the grade, which is only 5.6. If you climb 5.8, this route is great fun. If not, it is more exciting, but still can be fun.

Reggae is mostly 5.6/7 climbing with about twenty feet of 5.8 climbing. Done the easiest way, there is just one move that requires some pulling, but that's only because I have it wired. Make sure as leader that you run the rope inside the flake. Mark mentioned that he didn't do that when he climbed it with his wife. She fell at the crux and hasn't climbed with him since, though the seven kids they have now is probably more to blame than Mark's rope management.

On Reggae
We did a massive traverse from the top of Reggae and finished with the last pitch of the Wind Ridge. We downclimbed the rappel descent after traversing over to it.

Wednesday, May 28th: Grand Giraffe with Stefan

Stefan on the 5.7 offwidth at the top of the crux pitch
We did the complete Grand Giraffe. Such a great route! I only led one pitch: the crux offwidth (10a). Stefan claims he doesn't like leading it because he doesn't know how to climb offwidths well. That is probably true, but he can climb anything better than I can. I did fine on it. I know what to do there and it's all about the knee lock. We had a #3 and a #3.5 Camalots with us. I placed the #3.5 a bit below the pin at the crux. The pin looks solid but I didn't think I'd be getting any gear higher up anyway, so backed it up. The crux climbing is about four feet long. Seriously. Above the crux the climbing is probably only 5.7, but it is pretty runout. I did place the #3.5 ten feet up, but the last 15-20 feet are unprotected unless you have a giant cam or Big Bro. 

Normally this route is five pitches, but Stefan strung the first two together in a monster lead with a tiny bit of simul-climbing. He did the same with the Upper Grand Giraffe section. The climbing is only 5.6 on this upper part, but it is a bit runout in spots and pretty steep. Once again, super fun for the 5.8 climber, but probably pretty scary for the 5.6 climber.

We had perfect temperatures, as we were in the shade all morning (and back at the car at 8:40 a.m. helped). 

Friday, May 30th: West Buttress of the Bastille with Mark and Tom

Mark, Tom, and I met at 5:30 a.m. today and headed to Eldo. We were at the base of the West Buttress of the Bastille by 5:45 a.m. This route is rated 5.9+ but MP seems to have the consensus at 10a:

I led the first pitch and didn't have much trouble at the crux, but was briefly baffled by the traverse left after it. I finally found the key foothold and it went fine. I thought Mark did great following, but he notified me that he pulled on a draw and stepped on a pin. The latter actually didn't help matters and probably made it harder as that meant he went too high. He'd later rectify this.

Tom led the second pitch into the chimney and Mark onsighted it following. I led the steep roof (really a pitch of Hair City). I climbed up and placed a good yellow Alien and then back down to de-pump a bit. I might not have needed to de-pump, but I've fallen off this before, so I was being careful. I felt very solid turning the roof after the rest. Mark cruised it with nary a pause!

Mark at the crux of the West Buttress
Tom led the last 5.6 pitch and we hiked back down. Mark wanted to clean up the first pitch, so Tom led it again while I went back to the car for a second rope to rap off from the top of the first pitch. Mark dragged the second rope up behind him. Mark nearly had the crux clean on this next go, but he made the crux reach with his right hand instead of his left and I think this got him off balance. He still almost made the move, but fell off. He got back on and on his next try he went with his left hand and got it. He'll get this completely clean on his next go.

Tom lowered Mark to the ground and then belayed me up Rain. This route is rated 5.10d R:

I didn't fall off on TR, but it would be a lot pumpier placing the gear at the roof on lead. I think if you set this gear well (and it looks like solid gear), this climb could be reasonably safe, though scary. If you fall before getting this gear, it could be a ground fall, but it isn't that hard up to there. Above the roof is face climbing that is a bit runout, but protected by two bolts. I felt pretty solid up there, but it could be scary if you were pumped.

Tom rapped and and we were back at the car by 8:20 a.m. A great morning with five pitches for all of us.

Saturday, May 31st: Long John Wall and Rewritten/Zot Face with Tom, Mark, and Mallory

Tom and I met at 6 a.m. Our plan was to climb the 5-pitch Long John Wall and then meet Mark and Mallory at the base of Rewritten. These climbs link-up fine because the descent for Long John is to downclimb to the east off the West Ridge and that puts you in the gully below the Redgarden Wall and at almost exactly the right height.

The night before we had an intense rainstorm which caused some flash flooding in Boulder. This morning South Boulder Creek, which runs through Eldo, was about as high as I've ever seen it (not having been in the canyon for the Great Flood of '13). To get to the West Ridge one usually has to hop across a couple of rocks to avoid getting your feet wet, just past the toe of the West Ridge. Today passage was completely flooded. It was only a few steps though and we were both game to just wade a bit. I thought the depth would be below my knee and the first step was. The next step I plunged into almost to my crotch. My pants were completely soaked. Even my climbing shoes, clipped to my harness, were wet. Oh well.

We elected to climb the first pitch of Chianti (5.8+) instead of the first pitch of Long John. This is apparently commonly done to avoid the dicey traverse above the first roof on Long John. I have that traverse down, as I've done it so many times, but Chianti also avoid the poison ivy on the first pitch of LJ. I know how to avoid this as well, but I hadn't done Chianti in a long time, so we headed up it.

The rock was wet. We climbed on a doubled 60-meter rope, hoping to simul-climb the route as one pitch, which we've done many times before. If you plan to do this, don't start with Chianti, as it puts in two 90-degree turns that you'd have avoid by doing the complete Long John. I paused at the crux lieback move and even backed down. My shoes were wet and I gave it another look. I found an easier way and was soon traversing left to the Long John Wall route. What I found there wasn't comforting. The entire second pitch was soaked. I continued cautiously to a small stance below the roof above and set up a belay.

Tom followed, doing a double take at the wet pitch above him, and then led through for a pitch and a half. I finished off the route and at the top I could see directly across to the base of Rewritten and it was mobbed with people. Two of those people were Mark and Mallory and I yelled over a greeting. I knew we were way late.

We didn't get over to them until 7:45 - about thirty minutes behind schedule. Fortunately, the first pitch of Rewritten was free. I don't know how this happened with all the people at the base and I didn't ask. Maybe Mark negotiated with the others to wait for them. Regardless, I sped up the first pitch dragging two ropes. I climbed up to and then alongside a guy leading the Great Zot. His partner Scott was in Eldo the morning that Tom took his 130-foot fall while simul-climbing with me on my first attempt to climb 100 pitches in a day.

I set up an anchor on the ledge and belayed Mark, Mallory and Tom up the first pitch, all at the same time! I had my belay device set up in guide mode and used it to belay Mark and Mallory. Mark was tied in short and Tom was tied to the end of his rope. It worked well.

Once everyone was on the ledge we separated into two teams. Mark and Mallory headed for Icarus and Tom and I went up the Zot Face. Tom and I completed the route in two more long pitches. We called it a morning, as we both had stuff to do. We'd done two routes and ten guidebook pitches and it was still before 10:30 a.m. but we had places to go. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Father vs. Son - Showdown at the Bolder Boulder!

Our 22nd Bolder Boulder in a row! (12 in a row for the boys)

Last weekend Derek beat me in a road race for the first time, but that was just a 5K. Today at the Bolder Boulder the distance is twice as long. I figured that would give me an advantage since Derek's training consisted of running the 200 and 400 meters during high school track. Could he last this long?

I wanted Derek to do great and if he crushed me, I'd be so proud of him, but... The fact of the matter was that we were going to be running about the same time and as long as that's the case - game on! Derek is going to surpass me in just about everything and no one will be happier about that than me, but that doesn't mean I'm going to make it easy on him.

Before the showdown! I'm stretching to at least remain taller, just in case I can't be faster as well.
Our plan was to run the first 5K at at 7:15/mile pace and then see if we could drive it down. That pace is almost exactly a 45-minute 10K, so the obvious goal was to break 45 minutes. Derek's PR, three years ago when he was 13, was 47:30. While Derek did get a qualifying time for the B wave, my wave, it was after he registered in the BA wave. Since this race is chip-timed, I just dropped back one wave so that we could start together and duke it out, head to head. Sheri dropped back a wave as well to run with Danny in the CC wave. Danny did all of one training run and cut that short with shin pain, a condition that has been giving him trouble for a couple of years. He was also coming from sea level and would decry the lack of oxygen here.

We didn't jostle too much for position in our wave, but I did feel the need to move up shortly after the gun. Normally, if you are moving up in the first mile, you're going too fast, but where we were is a slightly slower wave and I used my GPS watch to keep us on pace. I took us through the first mile in 6:56, which was a bit too fast, but I felt very comfortable. I corrected a bit in the second mile, running 7:10. The third mile is a tough one, but I stayed with the plan and still felt pretty good, clocking 7:14.

Through the first 5K Derek was mostly by my side, occasionally he'd drop back behind me when I weaved through traffic. I resisted picking up the pace, wanting to get over the Casey Elementary hill at the start of the fifth mile first. Derek didn't hold off as long and moved out in front of me at the 6K mark. Nice move, I thought. He's trying to beat me at my own game. He could have drafted on me to the 6-mile mark and used his superior speed, but he knew I'd try to drop him before then, so he figured he'd just leave me early. I didn't go with him, but kept him on a short leash.

I gained a bit on Derek while climbing the hill, shortening my stride and increasing my turn over. I thought about closing all the way up to him, but detected my effort getting a bit too high this far out. I resisted, but his gap stopped growing. At least until the downhill, where his leg speed opened up a nice gap on me, though probably not more than ten seconds at most. I'd helped him stay on pace in the first 5K and now he was the carrot, helping me to push through the pain and stay with him.

I worked hard, running 7:14 in the fourth mile and then 7:00 in the fast, fifth mile. I knew we had some time in the bank. If I didn't blow up completely in the final mile, I knew I'd break 45 minutes. This worked against me to some extent, as that was my goal and I didn't have to suffer as much. Except I could still see Derek. If he had gotten out of sight, it would have been game over, but he didn't. I knew the distance was going to be as tough on him as it was on me. I enter races to race and to hurt. No matter what my fitness, I want to race to the best of my ability and that means one thing in the sixth mile: PAIN.

At the 9K mark I switched over my watch from showing me pace to time. I went through in 40 minutes even. If I stayed on 7:15/mile pace I would finish in 44:30. The last mile of this race is brutal, though, with two very painful hills just before and just after the 6-mile mark. My eyes were fixed on Derek and, though I was working as hard as I dared, I wasn't closing. But I wasn't losing ground either.

As we started up the first hill, I picked it up a bit and rolled into the short downhill under the 6-mile banner. I ran 7:18 for this mile and knew I didn't have much left. On the second hill I saw Derek bent over and saw his back heave. I knew that heave. I've been that heave. He was hurling on the last hill. I love that. I love that he will push himself until his body rebels. I used to be able to push so hard at the end of every race that I'd hurl in the finishing chute. Others might think this is gross and it certainly is unpleasant. I'd always try to get to the side, but I never held back for fear that I'd hurl. I have not been able to do it in the last many years, though. I just haven't been willing to take it to that level of suffering.

Derek's hurling before the finish allowed me to come all the way back. I put my hand on his shoulder as I went by, silently urging him onward. I could have sneaked by on the far side and maybe sped away, but I'd never do that. I was giving my best, but I wanted Derek to give everything he had and I knew if I went by, he'd respond, despite the hurling. He did.

As we crested the final hill and started the descent into Folsom Field, Derek kicked. We still had 300 meters to go and I had gone deep catching Derek, so I waited to kick. I couldn't go from that far out. I knew I couldn't match Derek's speed either, so it wasn't much of a decision to let him go. Of course, I did pick up my pace somewhat.

With 100 meters to go, Derek was fading, the lactic acid shutting down his legs. I wasn't far behind. I might be able to get him, I thought. I kicked hard, as hard as my 40+12 legs allowed. Maxed out, I sped past other runners closing fast on Derek. I was going to get him. Then, with just a few yards to go, for some reason, Derek felt me. He looked over his left shoulder, saw me, and somehow jumped his pace for the final strides, edging me out by a foot or two. He'd be happy to find out later that his chip time would officially be one second faster than mine: 44:19 vs. 44:20. In the official results, our time difference was just 0.3 seconds. I got 10th in my age (yes, "age", as at the Bolder Boulder the "age groups" are 1-year age groups). Derek was further down, as there are tons of fast kids.

We'd done it. We'd made our goal. We had a great battle and it was undecided until the last step. It was one of the most satisfying Bolder Boulders I've ever run. It was one of the most satisfying races I've ever run. Right down to me puking in a trashcan after crossing the finish line. It took chasing my son for me to re-gain my potential and once again hurl at the end of a race...

Sheri finished in 47:39, a bit ahead of what she expected, and, surprisingly, second in her age. Danny didn't know what to expect, but after a mile with Sheri, he knew he wasn't going to maintain that. He switched over to surviving the race and even did the slip n'slide along the race course. He felt he was going so slow and feared he wouldn't break an hour, but finished just under 54 minutes. His best is 46:30, but apparently college life has slowed him down, and California has made him weak.

I'm not bored with this race in the least. We'll all be back next year. I know I'm going to have to train a lot harder if I ever expect to beat Derek again, but things were just too close this year to throw in the towel. See you next year, youngster!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Skywalker Couloir w/Boys

Nearing the top of the Skywalker Couloir

My boys are interested in bagging peaks. That's cool, as Sheri and I love doing that. Sheri only has two 14ers in the lower 48 states left to climb: Polemonium in the California Sierra and Mt. Rainier in Washington (I only have Polemonium left to do). When I mentioned Rainier to Danny and Derek they were immediately interested, despite not having a clue what it entailed. First, they'd have to learn how to use crampons and an ice axe and this climb was our first outing.

I got the boys fitted in my mountain boots the night before. Conveniently, all three of us have the same size foot. I pulled out three ice axes, got them suited up with spare gear of mine and we were set. Our friends Pat and Max Manson joined us and arrived at our house at 5:15 a.m. We drove to the Fourth of July trailhead and were hiking around 6:30 a.m.

The snowpack up here is tremendous and we rarely saw any sign of the trail. I felt my way through the words, guided by previous experience on this trail and an innate sense of direction that draws me to great climbs...Or so I imagine in my head. My boys might argue with that description of my route finding abilities and indeed, as we followed the track back to the car, I wondered what drunken imbecile had put in a route that seemed to go uphill more than downhill on the descent. Nevertheless, we successfully found our way to the base of the gully. We spotted two climbers high in the couloir as we approached it, but never say them again. Too bad, as I'd have liked to thank them for the great track they put in. We followed their footsteps all the way to the summit.

On the summit of South Arapaho Peak
Viewed head-on from a distance, this climb looks frighteningly steep. I knew Danny wasn't too thrilled with that view and I assured him it wasn't as steep as it looked. Internally, I knew it was steep. Too steep really for your first time on crampons, but my first choice, Queen's Way on Apache, was too far of an approach with the Brainard Lake road still closed. I hoped for good conditions and we got them.

We geared up at the base of Skywalker. The boys and I roped together, as we wanted to practice climbing roped for Rainier and it provided some security on the steep upper section. Pat and Max climbed unroped until the steep sections.

Pat is a pole vaulter. He was really good pole vaulter - a professional pole vaulter. In fact, he's the only person to ever vault over 18 feet for 18 years in a row. He recently set the Masters record at 16'9" and he's jumped that height for 30 years in a row! That's also a world record. World Record. So, he isn't just athletic. He's Superman. And the most modest, unassuming, normal Superman that I've ever known. His son Max is only 13 years old, but he's already climbed all the Colorado 14ers, is on a climbing team competing in speed climbing, and is a natural mountain adventurer. He told me all about the mountains around us on the hike up and about an airplane crash on Mt. Jasper that he wants to investigate, but only after traversing to the mountain via a 4th class ridge on another mountain. He climbs completely at ease, like he was born to do it. These two were both just so jazzed to be in the mountains. Pat would let out a whoop of joy every now and then. We were in good hands if anything went wrong.

Back at the car. Max, Derek, Danny, Bill and Pat
Danny was only fourteen hours away from sea level when we left the car this morning. He adapted to the 13,000+ foot elevation remarkably well and we climbed the entire couloir without stopping, save for the occasional photo. Both Danny and Derek were very relaxed and composed and looked like experienced climbers, despite this being their inaugural outing with crampons.

The approach to this climb is only two miles! That's so convenient, though the going wasn't easy to get there. We started climbing two hours after leaving the car, taking time to learn a bit about what we'd be doing. The couloir itself gains about 1600 feet. Once out of the couloir we coiled the rope and continued a couple hundred vertical feet to the ridge connecting the Arapaho peaks and then south along it for just a few minutes to summit of South Arapaho Peak at 13,397 feet.

We had some fun glissading on the way down and then slogged back to the parking lot. The continual side-hilling and softer snow proved a bit taxing by the time we got down, but we still had smiles on our faces. The round trip had taken almost exactly seven hours. It was a success all the way around. The Mansons had seen a new area that they were excited to explore and Danny and Derek had gained some new skills and experience. Hopefully Rainier is in our future.

Monday, May 19, 2014


At the start of the crux fifth pitch

If you're a climber with any interest in speed you've no doubt heard of NIAD: Nose-in-a-Day. This is a litmus test for trad mastery. Can you climb 3000-feet of granite ranging from 5.8 up to 5.14 (or A1/A2 for most of us)? While this is still a huge deal for most climbers and I'd still guess that a small percentage of climbers are capable of it, the best in the world have whittled this down to just 2h26m.

One of the record holders is Hans Florine. He stayed at my house for the last four days while in town for the CWA (Climbing Wall Association) meetings. Last night he gave my family and friends a great show on the history of the Nose speed record. In attendance was the current Naked Edge speed record holder, Stefan Griebel. When Hans read about that record he realized that he'd never climbed the Naked Edge! This had to rectified. He immediately asked, "What's the on-sight speed record for the Nose?" With that as our motivation we set off early the next morning to attempt the Naked Edge In A Day!

Here's a tip if you are going for a speed record: don't ask me to be your partner. This goes doubly so when the route is rated 5.11, since I've been known to fall off 5.10 more often than not. But that isn't really a key insight and obviously the King of Speed was well aware of this. Hans just can't help himself from talking like that. All the time. In essence this was an on-sight attempt and not a speed attempt, despite Hans starting his ubiquitous watch.

Pat Manson, a guy who knows quite a bit about speed, met us out in Eldo, just for the hell of it. He and his entire family of athletic freaks came to the show the night before and he was so jazzed that he wanted to come out and watch us. This displays Pat's incredible patience and attention to detail because about two thirds of the time Hans was just belaying me and it takes a trained eye to detect movement when I'm climbing 5.11.

Normally I'd lead us up to the base of the Naked Edge (only 5.8 climbing up to there), as that would be my only leading contribution and it's less dangerous with me on the front while simul-climbing. But to avoid any even minor taints to Hans' onsight, he took the sharp end the entire way. This worked out pretty well, except when I found Hans veering right towards the huge cave up towards the Diving Board instead of going all the way up the ramp to the little cave barring access to the start of the Naked Edge. I got him back on track and we were both soon at the base of the route.
Starting up the fourth pitch of the Naked Edge

It had taken us nearly as long to approach this route as Jason and Stefan take to do the entire route, bridge-to-bridge. And we'd get much slower. We switched from simul-climbing on a doubled-rope to regular belaying on a single strand. Hans took his time working out the crux of the marginal finger crack of pitch one, but he can hang on a long time and looked solid. I, on the other hand, cannot hang on a long time. Thankfully the gear Hans placed provided some key handholds and I was able to avoid dangling on the rope.

Hans executed the second pitch in nearly Stefan-esque speed. I thought he'd pause longer at the slopey, committing, run-out moves to the belay, but he pulled out rope as fast as I could feed it. I managed to follow this pitch without any taints. The third pitch is 5.8 and we were soon at the base of what some climbers consider the crux.

Hans cruised the tricky chimney pitch and I surprised myself by not falling off. Actually, this shouldn't be a surprise. I've just spent all winter in the gym getting about as strong as I get and I know the moves on this pitch, so I should be able to pull it off on top rope. I guess you could say the same about the crux fifth pitch, but that pitch is very difficult for me. Gym climbing does not prepare me for the burly, overhanging, hand crack.

Lots of stemming on this route, apparently. Hans nearing the crux of the fourth pitch

Hans climbed up into the boulder-problem start, clipped the two fixed pieces and explored around for a bit. I knew those holds were all terrible and wondered how he could hang on so long. After a bit he down-climbed back to the belay and said with a big grin on his face, "A cool puzzle! I love trying to solve puzzles. This is so fun." I kept my mouth shut on beta for the entire climb. I knew a couple of ways to do this crux (both really hard for me, but one slightly easier). Hans adopted a fairly straight-on strategy and cranked it seemingly with ease on his second trip up. He paused a bit on the awkward duck-around move and then a bit more to suss the crack. Once sussed, he fired it and ran out the rope to the top.

My turn. With a hundred feet of rope above me I knew a fall would drop me 6-8 feet, so I pulled on one draw to get by the crux. I always seem to make this rationalization. I just don't want to fall here. I'm actually more comfortable taking this fall while leading. In that case my partner is right next to me; I have gear right at my face; and any fall on lead is likely to be shorter than a following fall. Oh well, I wimped out.

I climbed up the ramp, ducked around and looked up at the final crack with a familiar sense of dread. This baby is hard. It's overhanging and the jams at the start are very marginal and require a big reach past a pod. I pulled hard, working at my limit and got through the most technical part of the crack. I was up into the #1-Camalot width that a lot of people lieback. I tried, but I was too gassed from below. I didn't have the power. I yelled up to Hans for tension, praying that he could pull the rope so tight that I wouldn't drop at all. I doubt he heard me despite screaming like a little girl. I fell and dangled in free space. I didn't drop back to the start, but I had to re-climb five very difficult feet. After a short rest, I tried again. This time I made it up to the #2-Camalot-sized crack and just barely made it to the rest, wheezing hard.

This was a pretty typical performance for me. This route kicks my butt.

We changed shoes, coiled the rope and down-climbed the East Slabs past a group of six climbers being guided up the slabs. I'd never seen such a big, roped party on these slabs and it seemed a bit comically to be solo down-climbing right by them, stepping over their ropes, and chatting with them while they are all roped up, with gear placed and climbing with big packs. It's all climbing, though. They were out doing the same thing that we were doing: having fun climbing rocks.

Pat, Max, and Ian met us on the trail as we came down. Our round-trip time was 3h13m. We wondered if we could beat Stefan and Jason down to the bridge if we got to start atop the Naked Edge and they started at the bottom of it. It would be close...

While this is far off the record of 35 minutes, Hans pointed out that he now climbs the Nose twenty times faster than he did on his first ascent. Since this was his first ascent of the Naked Edge it only stands to reason that in twenty years or so he'll be climbing the Naked Edge twenty times faster. So, watch out, Stefan and Jason, this baby is going under ten minutes!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Passing the Baton

This spring Derek ran high school track for the first time. He ran the 200, 400, and 4x200 and 4x400 relays. He had fun and did pretty well, though a long way from being an elite runner. He ran his first ever 400 at start of the season, timed by his mom sans spikes, in 59+ seconds. By the end of the season he had three races under 56 with a PR of 55.60. A long way from qualifying for State, but a lot faster than I ever ran.

Last weekend while I was climbing in the Gunks, Derek and Sheri ran the Rockies 5K and Derek ran 21:46 - a 7:01/mile pace. Today we all ran the Cottonwood Classic 5K. I was shooting for 6:50/mile and Derek was going with me. Sheri shooting for 7:30/mile. Derek had never even been close to me in a distance race before, but as I get slower every year, he's really starting to discover running. My plan was to stay on pace through two miles and then, hopefully, if I wasn't dying, turn the screws and try to get a gap on Derek. If he was still with me with a quarter mile to go, I'd have no chance.

I executed that race strategy perfectly. My first mile was 6:50, my second mile was 6:50. I turned the screws and, sure enough, with a quarter mile to go, Derek was no longer with me. Unfortunately, he wasn't behind me, but ahead of me! We battled a bit in the early parts of the third mile, but Derek moved ahead before 2.5 miles and stretched it out. I wasn't too far back at the 3-mile mark, but Derek kicked like the quarter-miler he is and I kicked...liked a one-time ultra-runner. The gap widened considerably. Derek finished with a PR of 20:56 (6:44/mile pace) and I shuffled in at 21:15 (6:51/mile pace).

Sheri ran 22:44 (7:20/mile pace) and, as usual, brought home the hardware, winning her age division and finishing as the fourth overall woman. I got second in my age group (30th overall) and Derek got fourth in his (21st overall).

There is tons of great food at this race and we gorged ourselves before rolling back to the car and heading for home. Next weekend is the Bolder Boulder 10K. Derek and I will start in the same wave and try to maintain a 7:15/mile pace through the first 5K. Hopefully we hold that and finish under 45 minutes. I wouldn't be shocked to see Derek go under 44 minutes.

So, for the first time ever, Derek is the family road racing champion.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Coveted Land Trilogy!

Bruno on the first pitch of Birdland

Today was our last day and the first day that dawned sunny and beautiful. We were packed and out of the hotel by 8 a.m. We had to stop climbing by 2:30 p.m. in order to wrestle the Sunday afternoon returning traffic, drop-off the car and make our flight home. Bruno decided I need to experience the other major climbing area at the Gunks: the Near Trapps.  All of our climbing until now had been at the Trapps. Bruno had been raving about Birdland (5.8++) and while I perused the guidebook for a warm-up (a warm-up for a 5.8? Yes), I found a 5.6 called Disneyland and then a 5.9 called Roseland. All were three-out-three-star routes and I told Bruno we had to do the soon-to-be-famous-and-widely-sought Land Trilogy!

The approaches to Near Trapps are even shorter and easier than the Trapps and we soon arrived at Disneyland. A party of two were on it, but stringing the two pitches into one, so we decided to wait a bit. I geared up and we waited a bit more. The Gunks are rife with beginner and moderate climbers, with good reason. I reminisced about my early days. I led the third or fourth climb I ever did and from then on led 90% of the pitches I climbed. It kept me in the lower grades for a long time, but I gained experience. I wouldn't recommend this approach, as I was a bit lucky to survive it. I used to scare myself silly so often. Most of the time I wasn't in that dangerous of a position, but I didn't know if any of the pieces would hold. A few of times I was in real danger, usually because of stupidity, but sometimes I was a bit too bold. That isn't a problem these days.

I did run out Disneyland quite a bit in order to reduce rope drag. The leader in front of me had used a couple of 6-foot long slings. I had a couple of long ones, but they are a pain. It's easier, though more serious, to just run it out. I did this at the huge roof where the route goes hard right to skirt it and then back left. This route, especially at the start seemed more like 5.7 to me. I'm sure, like at other areas, if you have these things wired, they seem easier. That's certainly the case with a bunch of Eldo routes. In fact, a Gunks climber would have a lot more trouble climbing in Eldo than an Eldo climber would have climbing at the Gunks. Eldo is cryptic, with techie, tiny gear, and holds that always seem to be oriented in the worst possible way. The Gunks is more like a gym. In general the sequences are easy to read and the holds are mostly very good and almost always oriented like a pull-up bar. With holds like this, the difficulty arises from the steepness and the distance to the next horizontal jug.

The previous day, while hiking to our last two routes, Bruno twisted his ankle. I heard him yelp in pain and turned to watch something I'd never seen before: an irate Bruno. He threw down his pack like it was a puma that had just leapt onto this back. He staggered for a second and then screamed an obscenity like Adam Ondra falling off his 5.16a project for the 200th time. He bent over picked up a rock and hurled it down into the offending boulder like the hammer of Thor. I half expected it to cleave cleanly into two halves revealing Excalibur. For a moment I was frightened, wondering if his wrath turned on me how fast I could get up the hill behind me. Right before my eyes I'd seen the transformation from mild-manner David Banner into the green "You wouldn't like me when I'm anger" Bruno Hulk. Bruno calls himself the Honey Badger because nothing will stop him from climbing and indeed this injury did not stop him, but Honey Badgers are not supposed to give a shit. Bruno gave a shit or two about this injury. In fact, it might have been a crap ton, but I forget the conversion ratio between shit loads and crap tons. Regardless, he wrapped his ankle and soldiered on, but due to this injury I lowered him all the way back down the cliff to the bottom and then dropped the rope and walked off.  This burst however lasted only 2 minutes and, within 15 minutes, we were climbing again, with a large grin on our faces.

We wanted Birdland next, but it was taken so I headed up Roseland. This route heads up a very slick dihedral and was uncharacteristically a vertical crack climb, mostly. The protection opportunities are myriad but near the roof at the top the footholds were so slick that I got more pumped than I would have preferred before starting the crux traverse on marginal crimps and glassy, near frictionless feet. A couple of pins protected this section and at one point the horizontal cracked opened wide enough for a hand jam and I took a moment to de-pump before the final hard section up to the two-bolt anchor. Most parties rappel from here, but we were having none of that. We wanted to top out. The next pitch was well worth it, sporting some heady sections and some unusual moves. The section that most got my attention was a flared, slick slot. It took me awhile to work out the sequence that wouldn't result in a fall. The last pitch was easy, but we were too high to lower Bruno and we walked down together, following a 6-7-foot black snake. This snake was cool. He didn't seem too bothered by our presence. He just kept going on his way, right down the trail in front of us. He was so stretched out that he looked so vulnerable. I could have easily picked him up by his fat tail. 

Next up from Birdland and it got my full attention, right from the start. I clipped a pin fifteen or twenty feet up and then had to run it out 10-15 feet to the next placement. The only hard section was within six feet of the pin, but it was dangerously close to ground fall potential and there are no gear opportunities in between. The first pitch has a very distinct crux that is considerably more serious than the rest of the route. The protection for this more wasn't ideal. I put in a 0.5 Camalot and only two cams were solid. I decided to put in a yellow Alien as well and only two cams were solid on that piece, but together I had four solid cams. The move went like this. Far to the left was a marginal crimp. At full stretch my right hand pinched a side pull that would be better when I could get high enough to lean left on it. Next I had to smear on next-to-nothing, stay tight, and high step the right foot to a really good foothold. That was it, but was all above those marginal cams and very insecure until I got that foot up. The rest of the pitch went nicely and I got to another two-bolt anchor. Again most people rap off. We aren't most people.

An older guy at the base of the cliff, clearly a local, was giving everyone information on what routes to do. He help me locate Birdland. Bruno overheard him say that, "No one has done the second pitch of Birdland for probably forty years." Bruno scoffed at this since he'd climbed it five years ago. When Bruno arrived at the belay he said, "Okay, we have two choices." I looked up wondering where the two alternatives went. I was already thinking that I'd be picking the easier one when Bruno said, "We can go down or continue to the top." I said, "Now, Bruno, going down isn't our style." Once again the second pitch proved to be well worth it. Plus, going to the top turns a single-pitch, lower-off into a mini-adventure. 

The climbing was cerebral right from the start. After clipping the pin above the belay, I was stumped on the next section. Where were my beloved horizontal jugs with the bomber cracks? All that was above me was sort of a rounded blob and I couldn't reach that. Bruno, ever patient, let me work it out and I finally got high enough to grasp it in my right hand. It was okay and allowed me to move a bit higher and reach for a horizontal, which was okay, but didn't have a crack for protection. I made another long reach to another edge and was able to get in some pro. Relatively easy climbing led me to a big, hanging dihedral where I was stumped again. I had a yellow Alien below my feet with a long sling on it. I needed to move up over the roof guarding entrance to the dihedral and my only hold was at the lip of the roof. There some footholds out to the right, but they were small, slope-y, and I just didn't have confidence in them. There was a very marginal finger hold well out to the right, but I couldn't figure out how to use it. I went up and down on this many times. Bruno finally yelled up, "Come on, Bill. You can do it!" I put in a stopper a bit higher than the Alien and put a quickdraw on it. With another piece and looking at a shorter fall, I unlocked the sequence and was able to stretch high for a decent hold and pull over the roof and onto moderate ground. I rambled up to the top and Bruno followed. Despite being a Gunks veteran Bruno repeated the same mistake on this pitch as he made on the first pitch. At each crux section he failed to go up and down numerous times, puzzling out the moves and checking the protection. He merely just reached up, grabbed the holds and pulled down. I chastised him for incorrect technique on the first pitch, but apparently he was unable or unwilling to climb "correctly."

We'd done three routes, seven pitches, and garnered nine stars in the guidebook. It was time to head for home. We marveled at the profusion of tolls on our way to the airport, so different from Colorado, but the whole trip was different and that was the point. We didn't travel to the Gunks for better climbing than we have in Colorado for surely that isn't the case. Everyone we met was astounded that we had left Colorado to come east to the Gunks. I kept having to explain that I had to use a ticket and I'm not that into Broadway musicals (I'm into them, mind you, just not that into them). I forgot to mention that it cost $17/day/climber to climb at the Gunks. That's steep, but if you lived nearby you'd buy a season pass, which cost $90. 

I had a great time on this trip and lot of that was due to my great guide and friend Bruno Hache (pronounced Hash-aye, as in "Bruno's last name has a certain cachet to it"). Naturally I pronounce it "Hatchy" so that I come across as a crude, ignorant American instead of a suave, debonair French Canadian. Bruno let me lead everything and said a number of times how enjoyable it was to just follow up some fondly remembered classics. He did the driving, found the hotel, selected three great dinner restaurants and an awesome breakfast place. Bravo Bruno!

We left a lot undone here, including Modern Times, which a couple of friends told me to do. It was wet every day until today, but I looked at it a few times. I'm sure it's a good route because of the recommendations, but it is, beyond any doubt, by far the ugliest, chossiest, grossest, mossiest looking route at the Gunks. So, it was little easier to resist than all the other beautiful routes…

The Gunks - Day Three

Leading the second pitch of Bonnie's Roof

When I awoke today the ground was soaked and it was overcast, but it wasn't raining. By 10 a.m. it looked liked we'd be climbing and we packed up and headed for the cliff. The rock was still soaking wet, but drying. I figured I should be able to lead a 5.6 even it if was soaked and I was just barely right. I think I put in more gear on Rhododendron than any other pitch that day. Okay, that isn't true, but I did place two pieces within ten feet of the ground. I didn't trust my feet at all and didn't want to fly out of the crack and land on the stump at the base of the route. 

You'd think feeling insecure on 5.6 wouldn't lead me to attempt a wet 5.9 with this description in the guidebook: "Many people have decked from this route while trying to place the second piece of protection." Yet, that's what I wanted. Mainly because Laurel was about thirty feet to the left of the last route and I was all shoed up. It basically consisted of one 5.9 move where I had to stand up on a tiny, wet foothold while grasping two wet, marginal hand holds. It took me quite awhile to commit to this move. I protected it with an RP. Once I made the move I was able to get in a solid cam and then the rest of the route was easier and well protected.

I'll update this later, but we then did Bonnie's Route (5.9), which was incredible. The first pitch was the crux, but the 5.7+ second pitch, which traverses out to an arete with tons of air and great holds epitomizes why I climb: fun adventure in a super cool position. This much more than pure difficulty, is why I climb.

We then did Airy Aria (5.8+), which started with a very committing lieback and felt harder than the 5.9's I had done so far. I strung the first pitch with the second and it was continuously interesting. I set up a hanging belay on a prow and Bruno led through to the top.

We finished with Three Doves (5.9) and the 5.7+ route to the right, while we waited for a party of three young guys to clear the crux pitch. It involved some exciting climbing above an old fixed pin, which I backed up with an RP. We didn't get back to the car until after 7 p.m., having done ten great pitches.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Climbers Lost in the Mist

Today we hiked over to Skytop to check out the tower and Foops. We didn't climb either, but it wasn't because they were dripping wet from the rain and mist. Both are off limits to climbers. Foops (5.11) rivals High Exposure for the most famous Gunks route. Its signature feature is a 10-foot, dead-horizontal roof. All the routes at Skytop are owned and controlled by the Mohonk Mountain House. It is possible to legally climb Foops, but to do so you have to stay and eat at the Mohonk Mountain House and you have to hire a guide. Considering that the room rates start at $600/night, this 100-foot better be outstanding! I wondered how often it is poached...

We hiked around the grounds of the Mohonk Mountain House and it was indeed impressive, even with the heavy mist limiting visibility to about 100 feet. The house is situated right on a lake and within 15 minutes of the cliff. It looks like a place for relaxation and quiet contemplation. The trails that ring the lake are seeded rustic benches perched on the edge of cliffs. I imagined Einstein and Bohr taking walks here and debating quantum mechanics.

Much like the absent-minded professors that ran through my head, we got lost on the way back to Trapps. While this is embarrassing, it is easier than you'd think. There are about 100 miles of trails within the 2000 acres of the Mohonk Mountain House grounds and few of the intersections are marked. I thought I knew what I was doing when we left the Mountain House, but we got off on the wrong trail almost immediately. In the mist and in the woods, there are no landmarks to guide you. We were reduced to trying to remember gullies or signs. I tried pulling up a map on my phone and it came up, but I couldn't find the trailhead where we started. Eventually I remembered that I was carrying a map. Turns out these archaic paper things are handy. At the next signed intersection I was able to determine where we were and which direction we were going - the wrong way. We corrected and turned our medium hike into a long hike.

We probably did more than 12 miles of hiking. I took some photos of the wild life. Instead of the bears, deer, and elk in Colorado, I saw many millipedes, a snail, and a few eastern newts in the eft stage. These newts are interesting animals. They start out as aquatic larvae and then enter the eft stage where they stay for 2-3 years and travel from their original pond to a new pond. Once there they transform into the aquatic adult and can live 12-15 years. I hope these little guys make their new pond before something eats them or someone steps on them. The weather all day long was either rain or heavy mist and it did not improve as the day wore on. Saturday is looking depressingly similar.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The Gunks!

Bruno reaches the GT ledge

The tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 eventually led to me Gunks a year later. When Danny's Harvard campus visit was cancelled, we had an unused Jet Blue ticket and they only fly to the east coast. Now what could I do back in the east?

Climbing at the Gunks was always on my bucket list. When I first started climbing in 1980 there were just three major climbing centers in the entire US: Yosemite, Eldorado Canyon, and the Shawangunks in New York. Things have changed a lot in the climbing world since then and the prestige of these last two areas has diminished a bit, somewhat because they have stuck to very traditional climbing ethics and have almost exclusively trad climbing.

The Gunks is famous for great holds and big roofs. I love the former and am very intimidated by the latter. I'd heard from a number of other climbers that the Gunk ratings tend to be sandbags. Two friends told me about routes rated 5.8+ that were solid 5.10. I decided to start very conservatively and concentrate on the classic routes in the single digits.

I drafted Bruno Hache to join me for four days and we took the red-eye flight to JFK. After three hours of fit-full semi-sleep in an airline seat we walked about a mile through the airport, took the AirTrain for another couple of miles and finally plopped into our rental car. The agent at the rental car counter informed me that my license had expired and Bruno, already my guide and rope gun, added chauffeur to his list of services.

We drove to New Paltz, had breakfast, failed to check in at our hotel and then drove to the Gunks. We started hiking around noon local time. We hiked the flat carriage road and stopped at the first multi-starred route: Bunny, 5.6. Since Bruno had already climbed all the routes we'd do on previous trips, he let me lead the easy ones. I zipped up this cool route and lowered off slings at the top. Bruno then followed and cleaned up. We repeated this procedure for Double Chin (5.5) and Horseman (5.5). The latter goes by two huge roofs and from the ground looks highly unlikely that it would be 5.5. Alas, it might be a bit harder, but it is close to that rating. The holds on these easy routes are just incredible. This is like gym climbing. The holds are just tremendously big and positive. It is so fun.

We packed up and hiked 15 or 20 minutes further, headed for maybe the most famous climb at the Gunks: High Exposure. It says quite a lot when a 5.6 route is the most well-known route in area, but this route deserves that reputation. It is just amazing. I strung the first two pitches together up to the Grand Traverse (GT) ledge. The money pitch is the last one, where you turn a huge roof by sneaking out the right side with big exposure. The holds and protection are excellent, so I wasn't too worried. It was just pure fun. Placing gear on the final headwall could be pumpy if you are slow to place gear, but the route is probably rating nearly right. I might lean toward a 5.7 rating because of the possible pump factor in placing gear.

Directissima (5.9) was next. Bruno thought I was ready. I led the first two pitches (5.8, 5.9) and Bruno couldn't contain himself any longer on the last pitch - he had to get on the sharp end. The final pitch was 5.9 as well. The crux, I think, was the traverse at the start of the second pitch. It was a very pumpy hand traverse. The rest of the climb was just very steep on incredibly good holds. So fun!

So, we did five routes and nine pitches on our first half day. On hardly any sleep. It was a good start.

We stopped at the Brau House for dinner. I was hungry, but mostly I was sleepy. Afterwards we went to the hotel and after a shower I was in bed by 9:30 p.m. after being on the go for 27 hours.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Transitioning Out of the Gym

Mark at the crux of Blind Faith

My climbing partners and I have put our gym membership on hold until November. From now on we should be able to climb outside before work, keeping up a similar schedule, only meeting in Eldo or Boulder Canyon instead of Movement.

Saturday Mark and I met at 6 a.m. and headed to Eldo for Blind Faith (10a), a burly hand crack. Jim Erickson did the first ascent of this solo. That's some confidence in your ability. We used a rope and a big rack of gear!

I led up the lower section to the crux, which is only 10-15 feet long. This is a hand crack with good jams, but it is harder than that sounds. The angle is nearly dead vertical and at the start of this section the feet are undercut so it feels overhanging. You can't get your feet into the crack until you climb up a move or two. While there is a great hand jam at the start, then there is a wide section and I had to lock off to reach by this to another good hand jam. I placed a #3 Camalot in the wide section and then either didn't have the power or the confidence or both to lock it off. I wussed out and asked Mark to take.

I rested on the Camalot and tried to figure out an easier way to do the move. I didn't come up with anything, but the rest helped and I was then able to barely claw my way onto the ledge above. As the crack rolls over onto the ledge it narrows, making the jams more tenuous. There is a face hold out on the right that helps matters, but it is still difficult to finish this off. I was disappointed to have hung on a 10a, but I also fell off the 10a Bolting For Glory the last time I climbed it, so at least I was consistently bad at the grade regardless of whether it involved greasy, sloping face holds or burly hand jams.

Mark climbed nicely up to the crux section and was as dismayed as I was with the state of things there. He rested a few times on the rope as he worked out the difficulties. We'll definitely be back, as we should have this climb solid by the time we head to the Diamond.

The tricky second pitch (5.9) went better. The hard part of this pitch is even shorter than the first pitch. It is probably five feet long and is also quite steep. The holds here are marginal and you have to get the combination of holds and footwork just right to get the finishing jug. Both Mark and I used a little deadpoint to get this hold. The rest of the pitch is fun and moderate.

We hiked down, retrieved our shoes and continued down to the base of the Bastille Crack.  A party of two was gearing up for that classic route, but agreed to let us head up first to put a toprope on the Northcutt Direct Start (11a), "if we were fast." Clearly I'm having trouble with even easy 5.10 in Eldo, but 5.8 is my speciality and I have this pitch wired. I only use one piece of gear on it, at the base of the crack, which I get to by stepping over lower than most people. This protects the one 5.8 move and then it is jugs and 5.7 hand jams to the two-bolt anchor. I was back on the ground before these guys had their shoes on. They were really nice guys. One was telling his partner about how "two young kids" just set the speed record on the Naked Edge and that he had watched the video on the web. Young kids? I think Stefan is 40+, but, yeah, compared to me, he's a young kid. He certainly climbs like one and has the energy of one.

Mark followed the first pitch of the Bastille without any trouble and then I surprised myself by firing the direct start on my first try. I have this pitch wired, but frequently that isn't enough. I certainly didn't do it easily. I barely made it, doing a couple of deadpoints to the holds around the blunt arete. Mark then gave it a go and with a couple of rests, was able to make the top and clean my draws off the anchor.

I needed to be home by 10 a.m. to go riding with Erik Weihenmayer, so we called it a morning and headed for a bagel.

We were in Eldo again early Monday morning. After our thrashing on the 10a Blind Faith, I figured Mark would suggest an easier route, maybe a 5.8 or 5.9 crack climb. Alas, Mark has been transformed via his season in the gym. He wanted more 5.10 and suggested Tagger (10b/c). This has been one of my nemesis climbs in Eldo. I've fallen off it more times than I've redpointed it. But I am familiar with it.

I led up the first pitch (5.9) with slightly cold fingers. I placed more gear than usual, as it has been awhile and my confidence was still a bit shaken from Saturday. I felt solid, though, and soon had Mark on belay. He mainly wanted to do this route because the last time he had tried this first pitch, it did not go well. He said, "I couldn't do anything on it." This time, he was completely clean. He did confess to maybe thirty feet of concentrated effort, but he moved nicely up to and over the roof. This pitch is canonical Eldo - tricky moves on holds that all point the wrong way or are marginal, with technical, smearing footwork. Fun stuff.

At the belay, I gave Mark the beta on the second pitch, ad nauseam. Halfway through my description I realized I was saying this more for my benefit than for his. I was talking myself into the exact sequence I'd use and trying to convince myself I'd get it. Sufficiently confident, I started up, climbing the lower part up to the roof methodically. The climbing up to the roof it only 5.6 or so. At the roof, I placed a small cam below it and then clipped the pin and backed it up to a slightly wobbly yellow Alien. After taking a while to suss it out, I launched up it, grabbing the sloping hold that juts out in the middle of the roof. I executed the tricky footwork, matched on the jutting hold and got the left hand jam at the lip of the roof. I hung off that and placed my #2 Camalot. Once clipped I was completely safe. I kicked up my right foot onto the underside of the roof, grabbed the face hold over the lip and had no trouble pushing myself left and over the roof.

I set up a belay right there so that Mark wouldn't have too much rope stretch in case he came off, but also because the rope drag on the next thirty feet of 5.8 can be heinous. Mark scampered up to the roof easily and quickly. He took out the pieces in the roof, besides the Camalot, which he couldn't reach, and after a bit said, "No way." I commiserated with him. The sequence here looks improbable. The footholds on the face are difficult to imagine, let alone use. I tried to give him the detailed beta, but it wasn't enough. Mark used a judicious pull on a piece to get to the hand jam and the hold over the lip and he finished from there.

He wasn't that disappointed. It would have been great to free climb it, but he wanted to make sure he could get up it by whatever means were necessary. When we climb the Diamond, we'll try to free climb it, but it will be a success even if we weight gear or, heaven forbid, have to pull on a piece.

The final thirty feet to the walk-off ledge went easily and we were driving out of Eldo before 8:30 a.m. We'll be back in there on Wednesday and with consistent practice, we'll get these routes clean.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Blind Leading the Blind

When the blind guy on the back of the tandem is giving you directions, you might want to question your navigation skills. I was lost in Golden, trying to find my way to the bike path, which would get me to Erik’s house, turning tight U-turns on giant tandem and trying not to stop because starting back up is a bit tricky.

Erik Weihenmayer is an absolute wonder. He lost his sight at the age of 13 and yet lives a life of adventure that far exceeds 99.9% of the sighted people in the world, including myself. He climbed the Seven Summits, which includes Mt. Everest. He leads rock climbs up to 5.10 and he's climbed the Naked Edge in Eldorado Canyon. He's solo paraglided. Currently he training to run the Grand Canyon in a solo kayak! He's also about the most positive person I've ever met. 

I hooked up with Erik via my friend Hans Florine, who has climbed the Nose of El Cap and Carstensz Pyramid with Erik. Hans told me that Erik is frequently looking for local adventure partners with which to climb and bike. A couple of years ago at Hans' prodding I sent Erik an audio email suggesting we hook up for a ride. I heard nothing back until a week ago, when Erik emailed me. He had found my original note in a long lost folder and wondered if I still lived in the area. I responded and we made a plan to ride a bike together. Yes, a single tandem bike.

I'd only ridden a tandem once before and found them pretty difficult to control. Erik offered up either a mountain bike or a road bike but that wasn't any choice at all for me. I can barely ride a one-person mountain bike. I met him at his house in Golden, which is less than 30 minutes from my house. 

After taking a brief test run, solo, on his beautiful Commotion Tandem, I decided to up the ante from my first suggestion of a flat ride, to climbing up Lookout Mountain instead. I figured Erik was strong as an ox and if I could just keep the bike upright, he'd power us up the hills. This turned out to be true and we had a great time on the climb, doing the nature loop on top, going by the country club for a bit of additional climbing and even climbing up to the Mother Cabrini Shrine via the very steep access road.

Hanging out with Erik you wouldn't know he is blind. He walks around this house and garage as well as anyone with sight. Even in unfamiliar territory, like when we stopped for a natural break halfway up Lookout, Erik just walks around like he can see all the dips and climbs in the woods. I found myself forgetting he was blind. He never asks for help to do anything. Mainly because he rarely needs it. I could go on and on about him, but that would fill a book. Better to just read Erik's books: Touch the Top of the World and The Adversity Advantage

Hopefully I'll be doing more outings with Erik. The very morning of our ride I prophetically climbed Blind Faith (10a) in Eldorado Canyon. I mentioned it to Erik and he responded, "Oh, that a great route! We should go climb it together sometime." I should have known...

Back at Erik's house after the ride he offered me a sandwich with almond butter. I helpfully told him that the jar he grabbed was peanut butter and after we exhausted all the other possibilities, I realized he had the right jar to begin with. So, I literally can see worse than a blind man...I guess I wasted all that money I spent on Lasik surgery last year...