Monday, June 30, 2008

Highline on a Weekday? No Seriously

We rigged our new "Golden Spire" highline this evening. Even after getting off work and down to Golden at 5:30, we still had a few good hours of walking. I've done so many highlines recently, this one hardly seems like a big deal, but it sure was a lot of fun. Josh finally sent his first, and a couple other guys came pretty close. More than anything, I'm really glad to have a few lines really close that don't take that long to rig. Today we proved that we can highline whenever we want!

Mountain Marathon

If you hike 28 miles, does it count as a marathon? No? Bummer. Well we had fun anyway this weekend. I got on board a trip to Culebra, the only privately owned peak in Colorado that you have to pay to access. I know it seems ridiculous to pay $100 to climb a peak, but if you're trying to climb them all, there's no real way around it.

After driving down with Scot, who I learned later is an ex NFL player for the Seahawks and the Steelers among others, we slept in till 6:00am, when the Cielo Vista ranch opened for business. There were only 20 of us on the mountain on Saturday, and it was a big mountain. Unfortunately it wasn't that big, and I was able to cruise to the top in a meager 1:50 from the trail head. I waited for everyone else to get up, and then we had a big party up there. Made it down to the car before noon and we were on our way to the Willow Creek trail head to climb Kit Carson and Challenger.

After a 2 hour drive we were at the trail head, and we started on our way. It took about 2 hours to hike the 4 miles and 3,000 or so vertical feet to the lake, which turned out to be pretty good time. We had planned to climb Adams that night, a high 13er, but unfortunately it started to hail with vigor right as we were about to leave the base camp. We decided to call it a night.

The next morning was show time. Our original plan was to climb the class 4-5 north ridge of Kit Carson, then down climb the normal route while tagging Challenger point on the way down. Unfortunately, the entire time from when we got to the upper basin until we were back down from the upper basin, we were shrouded in a dense and humid fog/cloud that gave us about 50 feet of visibility the entire way up. Fortunately, the route was well cairned, and we met up with 3 other people from the Culebra climb the day before who followed us the rest of the way.

We made it to the top of Challenger after climbing a sketchy snow pitch and some loose scrambling, and then continued to Kit Carson. The interesting thing to not is that Kit Carson is only 200 yards away from the summit of Challenger, yet you have to hike around it to get up to the summit. Unfortunately the fog was so thick that we couldn't see even the slightest glimpse of Kit Carson, so we ominously continued into the fog, travelling in what we thought to be the right direction. It was surreal.

We made it to the top of Kit Carson without incident. And on our way down there were intermittent breaks in the fog to where we could see the ground thousands of feet below us. It wasn't until then that we realized how exposed the mountain we were on was. It was steep! We made it back down, and hiked out to the car, content with the weekend. It was a total of 28 miles and nearly 10,000 vertical feet or so.

On the way back, we ran out of gas right at the top of Poncha Pass, but luckily were able to coast all the way down to the gas station at the bottom of the hill. The rest of the drive was filled with greasy burgers, undercooked fries, and an ICEE from LoafnJug. The weekends just keep getting better and better.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ringing Bells

This weekend James, James and I went up to Aspen to have another attempt at climbing the Maroon Bells (We went on my 20th birthday and it rained the whole time, making the 4th and 5th class rock unclimbable). It was quite the adventure! We left Boulder at about 7:15pm, headed for the Maroon Lake Trailhead. At approximately 11:30pm we reached the trailhead, leaned our chairs out of the upright and locked positions, and managed to get painfully awkward sleep for about an hour or so.

At 2:00am we awoke to several alarms and packed our bags and were on our way by 2:30 at the latest. We managed to see several porcupines on the way up, but fortunately they were more interested in the bark off the trees than the soft, non-quill-proof skin of our hands and faces. Danger averted!

After bypassing our pin-cushion friends, we made it to the bottom of the Bell Cord Couloir at about 4:00am. Donning our stylish crampons, or "pointy things" as the tourists called them during several inquiries on the way down, we slowly made our way up into the darkness, and the steep steep snow and ice slope ahead of us. There was a group of 3 skiers who we quickly caught up to in the snow, and made it to about the 2/3 point when the sun finally peeked its head over the flanks of Pyramid Peak. It was dreadfully slow going, but we managed to make it to the top of the couloir at about 8:00am, taking 4 hours to climb nearly 4,000 vertical feet of snow and ice (not too shabby, but there's room for improvement). As the maroon flanks crumbled and descended below us, we took a break to refuel for the traverse to Maroon Peak, the highest of the two on the agenda for that day. We made it to the top of Maroon Peak with some moderate class 3 scrambling at about 9:00am, and had another break on the summit.

The next task was daunting, and was what we thought to be the most difficult part of our ambitious agenda. The traverse from Maroon peak to North Maroon checks in at sturdy 5th class, and from our estimates, it reached 5.4 or 5.5 at its hardest section. Carrying rope and protection, but neglecting to use it, we made our way across the 1/4 ridge up turrets and towers, across ledges and snowfields, and made it to the top of North Maroon at about noon. The most difficult section of the traverse was either the class 5.5 free climb, or the 65 degree snow slope traverse, but we managed to carry on towards our lofty goal.

When we reached the top of N. Maroon, we tried to be relieved, but all three of us knew that the hardest part of the climb was yet to come (reassuring, right?) We signed the summit registry, (it appeared that the last entry was from September of last year, the day after we got rained out) and then began our descent. This was the fun part, the scary part, the adrenalizing part, and the terrifying part. This was to be the most trying and testing descent of my life, and I'll reiterate what I've learned before Never go down a route you haven't come up first. There, I said it. The problem was that we forgot our own rule.

The first part of the descent was covered in snow. We were able to posthole/glissade through a good portion of it, but it was drastically steep, and there were cliff bands on all sides so we had to be very very careful. It took the better part of an hour to descent what looked to be 300 vertical feet. We were not making good time. After some botched routefinding attempts, we decided to keep slogging down the direct part of the ridge, hopefully able to find a route further down. It wasn't too steep yet, so we figured we were in good shape. We continued in that fashion, downclimbing small patches of rock when we reached them, until the snow started to dissipate due to the increased slope. We looked to the south part of the ridge and were able to see some small cairns in the distance! We followed those, through loose and crumbly class 4 terrain, until we had lost about 1500 feet (over 3 hours or so).

We reached a point where we followed a cairn trail, but suddenly it stopped. We couldn't find anymore. We decided to keep descending what looked like a stable and welcoming gully. After sliding and slipping down 500 feet we realized we were surrounded on all sides by cliffs varying from 100 to 500 feet in height. It was an impasse, but we were too exhausted to realize it. James suggested flirting with the ridge again, but after a brief inspection it proved more dangerous than what we were already on. At this point we had been climbing steep, difficult and engaging terrain for over 14 hours, and the worst part of it was, we had no idea how to get down.

After some conscious decision making, we decided instead of risking a rappel over the cliff band, we would climb back up to the last cairn we saw, and look for traces of a trail. We climbed the 500 or so vertical feet back to the last sign of civilization, passage and hope, and were again dumbstruck with an impasse. We searched and searched and unfortunately there was so much snow that any of the cairns that may have been nearby were completely buried. In a last act of desperation, I lied down on a rock and hung my head, admitting defeat. Thoughts of high altitude bivy and helicopters and hypothermia and embarrassment filled my head.

After laying down for quite some time, I look downward and saw the faintest trace of a trail in a patch of melted ground. After further inspection it appeared that it was where we needed to be! I called out to James and James who had gone searching in other directions and told them to come take a look at my hallucination. Sure enough they saw it too, and we headed for the trail. We did a 100ft downclimb in steep snow, and made it to a rock band which we down climbed to get to the trail.

At this point we were able to follow it off and on to the base of the mountain, combining several hundred feet of glissading with class 3 and 4 downclimbing and a little bit of praying. But we still had to find a path down to Crater Lake! The normal creek crossing was flowing at about 10 times the rate it was in September, so we had to glissade through the trees (remember sledding as a kid and trying not to hit all those trees) and bushwhacked our way back down to the lake.

After a long trudge out, purely elated and exhausted, we made it back to the cars at 8:00pm, with a total moving time of 18 hours. Then we drove home.

I love how you love life so much more when you are right on the edge of letting it slip between your fingers. (don't worry mom, thats an embellishment)

Monday, June 16, 2008

The world is easier to see in 1 dimension

Everything we see, our whole gamut of understanding and comprehension is in three dimensions. That is just how we have come to understand the world. Spacial comprehension of the combination of sight and touch creates this understanding within us. But what if there is more? What if there are senses that are more difficult to control, but more rewarding to command. Are there more than 5 senses, and do the combination of these create more than 3 dimensions? It seems that every dimension correlates directly to a combination of human senses. Clearly there are the 5 obvious ones. But I'm talking about obscure feelings. Balance, Time, Intuition, Instinct, the onset of deja-vu, Deep Emotion, Love, so many unexplainable and uncontrolable aspects of our lives that impact our actions greatly despite our inabilaty to understand them. What if we can focus on controlling each one of these individually? What if we can do something that allows us to remove all other senses from the realm of cognitive processing and simply work on controlling only one of these at a time, developing them, and eventually controlling them. Will we see the world differently? Will we be able to view the world in one dimension, or 5? Will we become a better person?

Slacklining gives the ability to see the world in one dimension, focusing not on what surrounds us, what gives us a sense of vast sky or claustraphobic canyon, but instead on a one dimensional location, on a single line on infinite planes, back and forth you move, but tethered to one location. It seems dangerous, it seems insane, it seems as if a fall would kill you, but how does one fall while living in one dimension? There is no such thing as falling when there is only linear space. Learning to control everything is easy in one dimension, because there are no consequences in a one-dimensional world. To the common observer, it would seem that human life is impossible in a theoretical one-dimensional world, but it has been done. We do it all the time on the line, and continue to pursue this. What does it give us though? What do we gain by simplifying the perception of the world into a single, irrevocably straight line? Perhaps it is a glimpse into a tranescendant life where spacial dimension meets emotional dimension and the true essence of being human can be found. That is what we strive for when we walk the line. That is what we live for.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fun weekend with the family

Saturday we woke up painfully early to try to get the new Spire highline rigged. Josh and I went up there Friday night to start bolting, and got 5 of the 6 bolts drilled and placed. Saturday morning, while finishing drilling the last bolt, the drill bit broke ($50 drill bit) and left us unable to finish the rigging. Unfortunately we had to call it a day at 7:30am, while most of my peers where either passed out in their living rooms, or just getting home from partying all night. Needless to say, we were disappointed about getting up so early and then not having anything to do. Fortunately we had a plan B.

Laura came up to meet us for the highline, and she was pretty disappointed, but we went to the park in Golden and rigged some lines which kept us busy for quite a while. We did tricks and jumps and hung out, and even did a little filming. At about noon we then drove up Clear Creek Canyon to the first tunnel, and rigged a line across the creek. This was a load of fun. The line was about 8 feet above the water, and the water was equally as deep. The current was strong, but with some cautious swimming it was easy to get back to one side. We walked the line for hours, doing tricks and getting some good footage and messing with the kayakers who floated by underneath us. It was a really fun and challenging day. Laura was able to get out on the line, but struggled to stand up in the middle of it. It is pretty difficult to mantle the center of a 50 foot line, and I'm proud of her for trying her hardest. Despite the fact that she almost drowned once she jumped in the water, it was a great day.

Sunday we flew kites with Dad and slacklined at the school. It was a fun way to spend Fathers day and I'm really happy to have such an amazing family.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Coors Gap

On Saturday Josh, Dylan, James and crew all cruised out to Golden to rig a new highline that Josh had bolted the previous week. It was in a nice location, right above the Coors Brewery. In fact, it was about 500 ft above the brewery, so the nice view was a little obstructed. It ended up being about 65' long and between 18 and 60 feet high on each end (though there was about 500' of exposure above the bottom of the valley.)

Being a new line, it took a little more time to rig, about 2.5 hours. With the new lines, you're never sure what exactly you need to rig the whole thing properly. Also, it was Josh's first time installing bolts, so we wanted to back them up with some natural protection as well (there was a discrepancy with the drill bit size and the applied torque and the angle of the bolt hanger). We finally got the line rigged and tightened, and I was the first to get on the line. It was a bit loose but I didn't have too much trouble. I walked it three times and then let Josh have a turn. Josh is an incredible slackliner, (he has been landing backflips on the line recently) but highlining is such a different mental game than that. Imagine every bit of your body and your mind and your consciousness telling you not to do something. It is telling you its not safe, and you're going to die, and nothing is right about this situation, and there are so many things that could go wrong, etc. etc. etc. Then you have to control that inundation of emotion and take a step on to that one inch wide piece of nylon. Everything inside your head needs to be flushed out, every thought subdued, every natural reaction overridden. A step, then another, breathe, step, breathe, step, breathe, step. This is the only thing that can go through your head. You focus so much your eyes hurt, and you tense so much that if you didn't stretch before hand you get massive cramps. Finally you start to near the other side and begin to relax, the breathing is more controlled. Then you get to the end and hop back onto solid ground. Enlightenment.

It was a really fun day. Josh is friends with some professional photographers, who were friends with some professional videographers. We were able to get some great footage and maybe we'll be able to start producing a video soon. They're interested in coming along on the next trip to Moab so that will be fun. I really enjoyed the line, and I'm excited that there is a new line really close to Boulder that we can go to anytime.

Also, I did a few stunts (drinking some energy drinks on the line) so hopefully I can start to get sponsored at this highlining business. Its about time that the companies started jumping on the slackline bandwagon. Hopefully that works out!