Monday, January 28, 2008

Horny Toad

I submitted a picture John Vallejo took of me boulder climbing in Yosemite to a contest that the clothing company Horny Toad is running. Go check it out and rate John's picture well and everyone elses shitty so I can win a gift card. You might have to log in but it just takes a second, totally worth it.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Hueco Part III (Final Installment)

Peter on "Best of the West"

My arrival in Hueco was long overdue. Commonly referred to as the best bouldering area in the U.S., its practically considered a right of passage for boulders to make at least one pilgrimage to Hueco. It is almost as if people (some people) don't take your opinion of boulder problems or bouldering areas seriously if you haven't been. Ridiculous. Well, I went, I saw, I climbed. Now my opinions matter, so here are a few:

-Hueco is not the best bouldering area in the U.S. (OH NO!). It kicks ass, but any place with so many rules just can't be top dog.

-The rock is not that great. The best rock in Hueco is really good but most of it is ranges between really good choss and kitty litter choss.

-I will definitely return. The climbing is really fun, the roofs are unbeatable, and the concentration of hard problems is top notch.

Peter on "Left Donkey Show"

On a more personal note, I was very pleased to have found a couple of harder problems that did not put extra strain on my gimpy tendon. After discovering and working on both problems one day, I was able to get back to them both on my last day of the trip. The first, El Chupacabra, Left went down first try of the day. The second, The Flame, went down second try of the day. Hazah! Mission accomplished. Thanks to everyone who made this trip so special, especially Kevin, Peter, Adam, Melissa, Jody, my Mom and Gil for watching Turtle while I was gone. Time to ride off into the sunset.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hueco Part II

Hueco is a different kind of climbing area. Never mind the rock type or the climbing style or even the people there, Hueco Tanks (according to the park officials) is the most regulated public land in the United States. It breaks down like this: the park is divided into four regions (North Mountain, East Mountain, East Spur, and West Mountain). North Mountain is the only region in which one is allowed to roam free, although there is a limit to how many people are allowed to visit at any given time. The other mountains require a guide to visit, paid or volunteer. There is a limit on guided tours as well. The hardest part about the tours is that everyone on the tour must remain with the guide. There is no wandering off to go boulder alone in most areas of Hueco.

There are two commercial guiding services through which one can arrange a tour. Most people go through the Hueco Rock Ranch (also where most people camp). Recently Adam and Melissa Strong together with Glen and Heather Johnson have partnered to form their own guide service, "Wagon Wheel". Peter and I were fortunate enough to be invited to camp on the Strong-Johnson property during our stay. This was a real treat because of amenities like the four hole golf course and horse shoe pit. The Wagon Wheelers have discovered that there is no better way to start a day of bouldering than by taking a couple of swings with a golf club to loosen up your back.

Due to the regulations, it seemed like everyday's bouldering schedule was planned out well in advance. Who wants to do what? How long will it take? Do you have a reservation I can have? Oh shit! Do we need a guide? Peter and I were new to this whole scene and were mostly content to sit back and ride the coatails of our events organizer of the trip, Kevin. With his help, and that of our guides Adam, Melissa, and Jody we were able to jump our way through all the hoops Hueco threw at us.

As to the actual climbing side of things: Peter and I had our own frustrations. Peter had had one too many margeritas during his family vacation in Mexico and was suffering from the stronger than usual pull of gravity. I on the other hand felt like everything I wanted to try had a hold specifically shaped to agrivate my tendon, thus shutting me down. It was a challenging start but we were both encouraged by all the great climbing we saw and were excited for more. Plus, the tortillas from the Vista Mercado were the bomb!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hueco Part I

So, our flight was scheduled to leave Sacramento International Airport at 6:35 in the morning. That means my alarm goes off at 4:15am (I went to bed at approx. 1:30am). Check in and boarding goes smoothly. Peter and I, with caffeinated beverages in tow, think that despite the heavy rain and wind we'll be off in no time, bouldering at the Texan mecca Hueco Tanks in a couple of hours.

At about the time we should have taken off, our captain informs us all that there exists a gyro-thing-a-ma-gig in the plane that has not been aligned, and without which, we can not take off. It'll only be a matter of minutes he assures us. The wind, you see, is rocking the plane too much the gyros can't align! Like a sea captain without his compass our pilot plods about the runway trying to find our leeward salvation. I remarked on several occasions during this manic search that the leeward side would be found on the opposite side of the terminal, but no one seemed to listen. After two hours, and only after watching another Southwest plane successfully takeoff for El Paso, we were all informed that the flight had been cancelled.

This guy seemed to know what he was doing so I thought I'd do the same.

Peter and I mobilized into action. We picked up our luggage, re-booked flights for later that evening and called for a shuttle to take us home to rest. At least we could get one last decent meal and maybe catch a few more winks.

Alas, we arrived home in time to witness a hurricane bitch slap Peter's infant home. The side gate was snapped in two, the climbing wall's roof was under threat of being carried off by pterodactyls, and the house was leaking. I could see the look on his face. It read, "to whom it may concern, what the fuck is going on? My head is about to explode. I don't think I'm going to Hueco anymore." This wasn't good. I did my best to help by going to get myself some lunch and dry clothes. Meanwhile, Peter busied himself by running to the hardware store, patching the roof, defending the climbing wall, and ignoring the gate.

In the end, the castle was saved and the people returned to their normal lives.

Round two of the flights went well. Aside from an enormous line to check-in (apparently we weren't the only ones who had a flight cancelled) we could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Kevin greeted us at the airport and took us to our final destination. It was dark when we arrived and there was no moon. It wasn't until morning that we got our first glimpse.