Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve, Hueco

Becky and I are here in west Texas enjoying some free Internet and catching up on Facebook (barf in mouth). We've had two nice days of climbing sandwiching a day of snow in between. The white stuff was pretty to look at but I'll be happier in the long run if the sunny but cold weather continues. Today, our second rest day, Kevin and I built the dog run on Adam and Melissa's property so now home base is all set for a long stay. I'll take pictures a post them soon so everyone can see the results of our hard work (I know the wait will be painful).

Climbing has gone well so far. Yesterday Becky looked great sending the three classics 'Hobbit in a Blender', 'Dragonfly', and 'Warm-up Roof'. I managed to tick two cool problems as well, 'Le Chninkel,' an excellent Fred Nicole problem, and 'Ultramega'. A good start to the trip, and we're off to North Mtn. tomorrow!

I hope everyone has a great New Year's!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Something Different

What's different about this video? Anyone can play except Becky. Leave comments.

Compton Crips/ Bloc X from Anja Hodann on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Been Out Bouldering

I have finally been released from the bonds of nursing my dog! Turtle's wound is completely closed now and for that I'm immensely relieved.

With all the freedom I now enjoy I've been able to get out to the boulders once again. I spent Thanksgiving week and much of the following week in Yosemite enjoying the company of friends, great fall weather, and throwing myself at the boulders. I haven't done much to capture any media, but fortunately Becky has been better about bringing the camera out. I'm told we'll have to wait to see any of it until after her finals are over though, so I guess we'll have to be patient.

I did manage to convince Becky to allow me to share just a teaser of what's to come, so that my devoted readers can better understand my continuing battle with the boulder problem "Dogwood". Yes that's right, I'm back at it once again. I Finally got around to trying this fall, not once, but twice actually. The first was a brief dusk session. I got one attempt in before headlamps were needed and after that I just wasn't committed. I've tried this one before in the dark and honestly its no fun. The falls from the top are hard on my back on the best of days, but at night when it becomes more difficult to time my landing it leaves me feeling wrecked. The second time I tried it was much better. I gave it eight solid burns and six of them ended with me falling from the top. Below is perhaps my best attempt yet.

Dogwood Attempt from Princess on Vimeo.

Unfortunately the weather has crapped out again, and I'm not sure if I'll get another shot until spring. Something about this situation feels familiar...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Berkeley Iron Works Comp

Last week I attended a bouldering competition for the first time in ages. As has usually been the case in the past, I was not a competitor. For this event I offered my services (read: obligated) to shoot HD video and put together a short piece for the my good friend and gym manager, Paul Barraza. I had a great time doing this, and I really relished the opportunity to have a creative release. I'd love to hear some feedback on this, the video was an experiment for me and I had a high standard to meet. Also, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Becky's role in this project. In addition to providing me with a camera and lenses she deserves a credit as Key Grip. Invaluable.

TBS 5 Berkely Iron Works from Princess on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Out of the Woods Yet

Turtle eating her dinner out of her dog-bowl, I swear her head is in there.

So the pet health issues have continued.

About a week after Turtle's surgery Becky and I came home from a late dinner to an apartment that smelled absolutely horrid. Rotting flesh. We were dismayed to discover that a patch of skin adjacent to her sutures was decaying and had become infected! I of course panicked assuming that the chunk of skin would fall off and her intestines would spill out onto the floor and Turtle would die.

Thankfully, this did not happen. Initially I was told a skin graft might be in order, but that it would be risky considering her condition. I was not keen on putting her through another surgery anyway so I was relieved when I was told that we could treat it as an open wound. It might just take longer for it to fully close up, and she would be left with a sizable scar.

The most difficult part (for me) about this course of action has been dealing with the sight of the wound because of the immense pity I feel for her every time I look at it. I can't escape feeling a little guilty for putting her through all of this because, unlike a human, I can't explain why we're doing what we're doing to her. As a result, every time I clean the wound or take her to the vet Turtle gets very unhappy and makes no effort to conceal it. That said, she's been a great patient overall. I know I'd squeal a lot more than she does if someone where scrubbing an open wound on my body.

For now she's improving and that's all I can ask for.

Something a little more light hearted...

Facial hair! I decided to shear the beard off much to Becky's great delight, but to her dismay I had a little fun with the remaining fuzz.

First up was 'the Deadwood,' inspired by the HBO show of the same name. I thought this was a winner that could be worn with pride for months, I'd probably be single for those months though so I opted instead for the...

...Anybody want a mustache ride? Hell yeah! This is the look for me. Fathers lockup your your daughters because here I come!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Destination Climbing

Last weekend, while on nursing duty, I realized I needed to get out of the house for a bit to unwind. Since Yosemite was out of the question, I went for the next best thing...not Castle Rock, not Mortar Rock, not even Mickey's Beach, no I headed to Vacaville!!

The rock there is actually really cool in my opinion, there's just not that much of it. It's a really slick blocky basalt that unfortunately gets heated up pretty quick, definitely not an ideal quality in the sunny central valley. There is a project there I've wanted to do for a long time, so I thought I'd go give it a try. Its a lower start to a problem I established in 2004 called "Blood Sport" (I split my forehead that day when I broke a hold on another problem). Somehow this problem has made it into the Supertopo guide, but the description is totally misleading. Anyhow, I tried and came close but to no avail. I think it would be nice if it were about 20 degrees cooler for this problem because the crux sloper was just too difficult to hold in the heat.

For climbers debating where to go on your next climbing trip don't even bother with Font, Hueco, or the Rocklands head to Vacaville instead. To help convince you of this infinite wisdom I made a radical video that will blow your minds.

Vacaville Boulders from Princess on Vimeo.

The Tumor

The "Cone of Shame"

For the past week my attention has been focused on getting Turtle healthy. About a week prior to leaving for South Africa I noticed a small growth on the left side of her abdomen, which closely resembled a nipple. I thought it was strange but was not overly concerned. When I returned, I noticed that it had grown, but not that much. Nonetheless I became a little worried. Fortunately for me I have several friends that are veterinarians and one of them, Heather was kind enough to take a look at it. She was definitely worried and recommended that I take her in to have it removed. Heather is no longer practicing, because she's working 0n a PhD, so I took Turtle in to see another friend, Jenny. Within a matter of days Turtle had the tumor removed and the results of her blood work and biopsy were in. The good news is we think she's out of the woods, though she has a higher risk of future tumors than a dog that has never had one. Now we're just waiting for the six inch incision to heal and she'll be set to go.

It was a stressful week for sure, and I want to thank everyone that gave us their well-wishes and support either by Facebook, phone call, or in person. Also, an extra big thank you to Heather and Jenny, Turtle is the most important thing in the world to me so I'm forever grateful for all that you've both done.

Jenny and Turtle post-op

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Look

If you like what you see here, go get your own makeover too. I think I look soooo sexy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Update

Spent the weekend in the Valley again. I'm really missing just living there, ugh. All this driving too and fro sucks. The weekend was great though. It was Nora and Lyn's birthday and they arranged for everyone to stay at a house in Foresta, which was excellent because we could all prepare yummy goodness in the warm comfort of a big clean home and not the cold dirty nastiness of someplace like Camp 4.

Lyn's main squeeze Paul finally got around to loading some Rocklands video on vimeo and I'm going to share it whether he likes it or not. As bummed as I was not to have sent this line, I was really excited about Paul and Randy's sends. Oh, and speaking of Paul and Randy...them two of the both sent 'Thunderbird' in Tuolumne meadows this weekend. RAD!

Black Shadow [v13] from Paul B on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yeah Rockclimbing (and dinner too)!

This weekend, while I was bouldering in Yosemite, my cousin Cameron went abalone diving with my other cousin Brian. Cameron was nice enough to bring one back for me to try out. Above you'll see my creation. First I sauteed the abalone in olive oil with mushrooms, onion, garlic, and basil. Then I added some Heavy cream and let it simmer for a long time. Finally, I added some pasta, served it with a lite salad, and voila! I think it turned out pretty damn good. Thanks Cameron.

Now, in the spirit of awesome climbing weather, here is a little video with two great problems that were established last spring in Yosemite. The first problem is one I established that is still waiting for a second ascent. Not that hard but a little spooky (sockhands: it is your favorite grade so you should hop on a plane and do it). The second problem is called 'Adventureland,' Tim Medina cleaned and climbed this classic first but took FOREVER to name it. As a result I mislabeled the problem 'Something French' because he kept saying he was going to name it something in french to honor his new french friends from Fontainebleau. Whatever, its called 'Adventureland' now so get it right. Its awesome. Watch the video.

NewInYosemite from Princess on Vimeo.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Done With Trees

Since I last wrote I've climbed a few more trees but I've also climbed some rocks! Actually to be honest the trees were more exciting. Particularly the Giant Sequoias. The last tree I climbed on Thursday was a 240 foot old growth monster. We had to invent a few new (to us) techniques to climb it, but we still managed to reach the uppermost branches right at sunset (see photo above). Unless something totally unexpected happens, this will have been my last tree for the year, at least the last I'll be paid for. Of course, I think I've said that at least three times in the last several weeks so you never know...

Trees from Princess on Vimeo.

As I said above, I've had the chance to do some bouldering on real rock recently. My favorite rock in fact, Yosemite granite. The last two weekends have been really nice. I've spent most of my time just playing on whatever happens to be near bye, trying to regain some bouldering strength. Hopefully I'll be ready for projects soon. I'm ready to be out of my post-rocklands doldrums now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Lot of Falling


The following post is more or less a climbing log I wrote over the last eight days of our trip to Rocklands this summer. Obviously its really long for a blog post, and to be honest I'll be really impressed if anyone reads it all. Its mostly for myself, but I'm posting it because I'm guessing some of you can relate and you may find it interesting. Or maybe you'll think it's dumb and never visit my blog again.

If you find yourself leaning toward the latter category feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page for some accompanying video. No music, no fancy edits, just down and dirty failing.


My trip is winding down and I have just seven days before I leave for home, for my dog, for my friends and family, and hopefully to a job of some sort. Before I leave I have a few projects I’d like to do, but not much time to do them in. Where has the gone?

After I climbed ‘Yabo Roof’ in Yosemite last Fall I made it my goal to push my bouldering capabilities to the the limit in preparation for my trip here in the Rocklands. My hope was to climb something that challenged me the way ‘Yabo’ did, but with the added challenge of it being on a an unfamiliar rock type and with the pressure of an impending flight home added in for spice. Projecting on a trip is challenging because of the investment in time it takes. Prior to this trip I’d never spent more than a few days on any given project while traveling. With a stay of over two months I knew this would be the trip when I could really throw myself at a project without feeling like I’d missed out on all the rest.

Over the course of our first month here I sampled many great problems, none required more than a visit or two to complete. Of course I tried harder problems as I looked for the perfect project, but I wasn’t “projecting” per se. The problem I was looking for had to be difficult enough to seem possible, but not so difficult as to seem impossible. Fortunately in the Rocklands hard boulder problems are bountiful so there were many candidates to choose from. Some of the early favorites included ‘The Vice’, ‘Quintessential,’ and ‘Nutsa’. In the end however, three different problems rose to the top for three different reasons.

‘Armed Response’ was the first to go on the short list, is the one I most covet, and is also probably the hardest (though at first I didn’t believe so). This problem involves two very powerful hand moves and (for me) five very tenuous foot moves that actually prove to be the crux. The meat of the problem is capped by two more relatively easy hand moves. So far I’ve tried this problem to varying degrees over the course of six separate days. I’ve come very close several times but it still eludes me. One of the nice things about returning to this problem time and time again is the setting. The sunsets at the Fortress sector (where ‘Armed Response’ is) are the best in the Rocklands.

‘Tea Time With Elmarie’ is a test of ones crimping endurance. After nearly flashing an easier variation to this problem, and subsequently doing the finishing moves to this problem in a matter of minutes, I wrongly assumed I could complete the full line rather quickly. After four sessions mostly spent falling on the last move of this problem I’ve once again been humbled by rock climbing. Its okay though, the journey is what makes it all worth while. While I’d be very excited to climb this problem, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the others hold more appeal. If this problem were in the Bay Area it would be a mega classic. Here, amongst so many world class problems ‘Tea Time’ is the consolation prize.

‘Black Shadow’ was the last to come onto the list, though I first tried it nearly two weeks before I saw ‘Tea Time’. My first experience was one of mixed feelings. The climb was definitely very cool, but I was afraid my lack of power endurance and the unexplainable difficulty I was having with the end would prove to be too much to overcome. After a second lackluster attempt at the problem I’d nearly written it off, having had no progress whatsoever on the ending sequence, a series of moves others were have no trouble with. On my third trip to the problem I was escorted out on the enthusiastic shoulders of my good friends and mentors Paul Barraza and Randy Puro. I had a breakthrough and enthusiasm was restored. On my forth and most recent visit both Paul and Randy sent. I came painfully close to being the third but in the midst of my final attempt I injured my ankle in a very peculiar way while heel-toe camming. I remain nervous as to weather my injury will prevent me from getting another chance at this phenomenal problem.


After a full day of rest spent in the lap of luxury at a five star resort, which included a Swedish massage and gourmet meals, I decided to head over to ‘Black Shadow’ today for an evening session. My climbing did not get off to a good start. I felt tentative on the heel-toe cam because I was nervous about my ankle and I was having difficulty again on the ending sequence. I nearly threw in the towel when I started feeling some soreness in my LCL from the same heel-toe move.

Fortunately I discovered a much more straight forward way of doing the move that didn’t put any strain on the ankle or knee. Back in business right? Well, sort of. Turns out that climbing into the new sequence was harder to execute than just pulling off the ground and doing it. At this point I decided I was too tired to do it with darkness quickly falling around us but I was psyched to return after dinner with a few more headlamps for a second go.

After dinner, Becky, Kevin and Randy all joined me for a late night session. When we arrived my spirits were high and the temperatures low. After setting up I quickly set about to climbing into my new sequence. Immediately I realized that the sequence would not work, it was just to difficult to climb into. Again, I nearly resigned myself to failure. This time Randy pulled me out of the doldrums. He suggested a slight amendment to my new sequence, one that traded one large hand move for two smaller ones. In addition the amendment left me on a better hold than the one I was using previously.

Unfortunately, my next two attempts were thwarted by lazy foot placements and a diminishing gas tank. “You have to do this,” Randy says, “It’s too good not to come back.” Come back I will, but probably only once. There’s simply not enough days left for more. I’m still psyched but my optimism is waning.


Today I headed back up to the Fortress to try ‘Armed Response’ for, what was most likely to be, my final attempts. I was not in a hurry to get there. The temperature forecast was not good and since no one else seemed eager to go climb we waited for cooler evening temps.

Cooler conditions did not greet us upon our arrival. It wasn’t scorching hot per-se, but the air was still and the overcast clouds seemed to be trapping in all the moisture. Without even warming up my hands began to sweat. With the conditions as they were I sort of checked out mentally. I climbed a few warm-ups with Randy but I almost didn’t even want to try my project. Finally, after some time had passed, the heat started to lift and, though the air remained still, I decided to have a go.

My first try was very good. I matched my previous high-point by hitting the left hand pinch, but fell as usual when my left foot skittered off. The more I’ve tried this problem the more I’ve come realize that the crux (for me) is a foot move. I have to place my left foot on a very small edge in such a way that it allows me to press into my right shoulder and stand up to the good left hand pinch. Pulling on from the ground, this move is easy. Climbing into the move is another matter altogether.

I tried the problem a few more times with varying results until finally, I stuck the pinch! Of course my foot slipped off a moment later and I was back on the ground. Still, I had made progress and my spirits were lifted.

My attempts continued once again into darkness. I was still fighting moist finger tips so long rests were necessary, but I also knew that the rest of the group’s patience wouldn’t last forever so I couldn’t delay too long. At about this time Randy decided to start giving the problem some attempts. Right away he started making progress on the first move and before long he was sticking the right hand gaston. Watching Randy gave me the psyche I needed for one last good attempt. I sat down, chalked up and pulled on. The three headlamps we had lit the holds well and I snatched up the first hold easily. I made the tenuous 1-2-3 foot sequence and started pushing up for the pinch. I was more secure on my feet than ever before, and as I engaged on the pinch I thought that this could be it. Sure enough I held the pinch, but just as before, my feet gave way and I was off.

Progress on this sort of climb is often measured in inches, sometimes much less. In the past when I’d fall off grabbing the pinch I’d land on my back. On those attempts, so much of my weight was still on my feet that when they blew off I had no chance of staying upright. On this last go my feet hit the ground and I remained vertical. A small victory in the face of defeat. I was done. The others convinced me to try again a few minutes later but my heart wasn’t in it. I was drained physically from my last attempt and I was emotionally spent.

Durring the hike out I was in a trance. I hardly noticed how beautiful the night was. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to try this problem again. Its kind of a sad thought really. At the same time, this was the challenge I came to Africa looking for so I’m really happy that I found it. Three beautiful and difficult moves.

On Sunday I’m going to go back to ‘Black Shadow,’ we leave on Tuesday, and I probably won’t have time to climb on Monday. I guess its time to let go... Harder said then done.

I washed the holds before leaving though, just in case...


I didn’t have the heart to write last night. It was my last chance to do ‘Black Shadow’ and perhaps my last day climbing here in the Rocklands. The day began well enough at the Plateau sector. Becky, Beth, Randy and Kevin were all there and we each did a bunch of nice warm-ups, though the sun could have accomplished the same. Randy climbed a cool dyno called ‘Black Velvet’ on his third attempt, which inspired us all, and Becky worked out all the moves on a great roof problem called ‘Minki’. Before leaving the Plateau Kevin, Randy and I all played on another great dyno called ‘Hole in One,’ which Kevin was able to repeat.

When we left my expectations were low for ‘Black Shadow’. The weather conditions and the condition of my skin left me far from optimistic. When we arrived it only got worse. Not only was I sweating profusely but I was having fits with the last few moves again. I nearly called it quits then and there. Of course, I couldn’t bear to leave that way and everyone seemed content to play games on the iphone for as long as I wanted to try, so we stayed.

I never ended up sending the problem, unfortunately. I fell devastatingly close on multiple occasions, but it wasn’t in the cards. I could come up with plenty of reasons as to why I didn’t succeed, but the bottom line is I did not. I know the problem isn’t going anywhere, and I know that I can always come back, but that misses the point. The challenge I wanted was to do something approaching my limit, but with the pressure of a clock ticking in the background. I didn’t send, but I didn’t back off either. It would have been easy to go and try to tick off a lot of other climbs that were well within my limit, but I chose to stick it out on my projects. Not only that, but I could have spent at least one of my last days climbing on ‘Tea Time with Elmarie,’ which I’m certain I could have done more easily than the other two, but I didn’t. I realized that that would have been a cop-out, and I was no longer interested.

Today was a better day than yesterday. It began with Becky sending her mini project ‘Minki,’ her first of the grade. I say “mini” not to diminish the significance but only to reflect that it took her just two days to climb. The feat is even more impressive when you account for her MCL tear at the beginning of our trip.

After ‘Minki’ we headed into town for some lunch and to take care of some errands. Finally, just before sunset we headed back to the Fortress for one last play on ‘Armed Response’. Everything about this session was an improvement from the last few days of climbing. The temperatures dropped, a cool breeze was blowing, and I felt relaxed for the first time in days. At this point I didn’t really expect to do the problem, but that didn’t bother me so much. My skin was still shit and I was tired from the previous evenings climbing. Still, this is why I came to the Rocklands, to try and climb a problem like this, and on my last day here I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

Perhaps as a result of my improved disposition, I climbed better on the problem than ever before. I managed the pinch move multiple times and I can honestly say that I was just a foot move away from completing the problem on at least two attempts. I won’t say I wasn’t frustrated by how close I came without sending, but I will say that I walked away with my head up this time. I even enjoyed the walk out. The moon was bright enough fore go headlamps, and the breeze felt good on my face.

Tea Time With Elmarie from Princess on Vimeo.

Black Shadow Attempts from Princess on Vimeo.

Projecting 'Armed Response' from Princess on Vimeo.

One impression I'm left with, after re-reading my ramblings and watching the video, is how lucky I am to have supportive friends that are willing to hike to the same boulders over and over again, with nothing but positive attitudes. I hope I can repay the same kindness in the future. Thanks especially to Becky, Beth, Kevin, Lyn, Paul, and Randy for making multiple trips, carrying pads, and shinning headlamps.

I owe Becky an extra special thanks for taking all of the video and for putting up with my project induced mood swings.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not Climbing

Haven't been rock climbing since September 6th, not even on plastic rocks! This is the longest break I've taken in 8 years (I think), when I injured my shoulder and it just wouldn't heal. Fortunately I'm not injured now, I'm just broke. The South African sojurn really hurt my bank account so I've been working hard the last two weeks trying to build it back up, but more on that later.

I've got at least one more post regarding the big summer trip. After that, I promise a return to the present and future. I hope.

For a quick media fix I put together one more short video with a few problems I forgot to include in the longer one I posted a month ago. The highlight is Randy's 3rd try ascent of 'Black Velvet,' unless your name is Jaeger then it will be 'Minki' because of it's magical grade of v7. I hope you enjoy.

More SA Boulders from Princess on Vimeo.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Joys of Internet

Well, I'm back. I have at least one more post regarding my trip, but I have share these videos first. I've been without decent Internet for two months, which wasn't that big of a deal really. I am, however, currently enjoying surfing the web for nonsense and stupid bullshit the likes of which can be seen below. I've seen some tantrums in my life, and I've even thrown a few, but nothing comes close to this. Hilarious AND disturbing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Long Awaited Media

Becky and I are currently staying at a five star resort called Bushman's Kloof. Its amazing and totally out of our league. One of the many perks here is decent internet so I've uploaded a video with a bunch of problems from our trip. I hope everyone enjoys.

Rocklands 09 from Princess on Vimeo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not Much Longer Now

I'm sorry for being so tardy with my posts. I'm sure this post won't saticefy any of you though. I have way to much to say and not enough time to say it. Please bare with me. Here's some random pictures of boulders I've seen out hiking anyway.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Little Safari

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddles portions of the northern border of South Africa and southern border of Botswana and encompasses the much of the region known as the Kalahari desert. Being in this place has made reality a childhood dream to step inside a PBS nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough. I can vividly recall being mesmerized as a child by images of the nesting behaviors of the sociable weaver (Philetairus socius) and here we couldvsee them in nearly every large tree! I've included a few pictures but I left most of the photography to Becky and Alan.

Shortly after our arrival Friday evening we took a ranger guided drive through a small portion of the park. Normally the roads are closed after dark, but with the ranger we were given the privilege of seeing some of the Kalahari’s nocturnal wildlife. There were black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas), cape foxes (Vulpes chama), african wild cats (Felis lybica), steenbok (Raphicrus campestris) and spring hare (Pedetes capensis) among others. The highlight of the evening was definitely witnessing the successful hunting of a dove by a striped polecat (Suricata suricatas).

Our trusty safari vehicle

On our first self guided drive we headed to the far western side of the park, to a camp called Mata Mata. Along this there-and-back drive we had some very special sightings. There were two families of giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis), spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), and my personal favorite, the honey badger (Mellivora capensis). Of course, there were other critters about. We became rather nonchalant about seeing secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius), kori bustards (Ardeotis kori), ostrich (Stuthio camelus), springbok (Antidorcus marsupialis), gemsbok (Oryx gazalla), and blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus).

We weren't supposed to get out of our vehicle, but we did often. Above you can see Alan trying to sneak up to some giraffe for a better photo.

On our last day we woke up early with the hope seeing some of the famous black-maned Kalahari lions (Panthera leo). While we were unable to see any of these amazing creatures we were fortunate enough to take in more of the surreal desert landscape and I even got some climbing in...

The drive home was long but uneventful. Now we've returned to the 'Ernie' house and I'm glad to be getting back to the fantastic climbing. I've done alot of stuff quickly on this trip and now I feel ready to put some time in on harder climbs.

A giraffe skull

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There Are Flowers Here

The rain is gone and we have been climbing again. We've also visited the beach and are currently making plans to see some very big critters. The last arrivals in our party come in on Thursday. Also, I think we're all still very excited about the climbing here. The only downturn is that we may have to pay for our climbing from now on. Most of the farms we climb at have begun charging for our recreating and Rangers have begun hanging out at the entrance to the Cederburg Wilderness and charging us day use fees. The fees are understandable and minimal compared to what we would pay in the States, but it does add yet another expense to the ever growing list.

On a personal note, I've had the unfortunate flair-up of the bicep pain I'd avoided for about a month. Just when I thought I was in the clear I hopped on a thrutchy, difficult problem without a proper warm-up and WHAM! my bicep yells at me. Typical really. Once you think you're rehabbed you neglect the things that got you healthy in the first place. Its not as bad as it was in the beginning so hopefully I can keep it at bay for the duration of the trip. I hope I have the discipline.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rain and New Arrivals

Today we are sitting out our third day of rain in a row. ARGH! I'm exceedingly antsy to go out and climb. My skin is rock hard and I have fresh muscles to exhaust. There is only so much to do around the house and Internet is WEAK in town so there is not much to be gained from that. Ideally we'd be doing something cool like a safari or brai but those also require good weather.

Alan and Amna arrived a few days ago and Lyn, Paul, and Cam arrive tonight. Hopefully they'll bring us some good weather.

Our first day of rain wasn't too heavy and it was a scheduled rest day anyway. After going to town for groceries Becky and I decided to check out a little more of the property that is owned by the Strauss family (they own the house we're staying in). The coolest thing we found was some amazing rock art in one of the small roofs by a pretty little stream. We did a modest hike too and found some boulders. Nothing mind blowing but some potential for sure.

Hopefully sun tomorrow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Fighting Zebra

Peter, harnessing his inner Zebra on 'Springbok' good!

We returned to the Sassies' yesterday with several high class lines in mind. The 'Pinotage' boulder is perhaps the finest boulder in the developed Rocklands, certainly the best I've seen so far. It has a plethora of excellent warm-ups with friendly holds, several more difficult moderates of impeccable quality, a beautiful looking highball, and the boulder's namesake, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Its funny, each day we go go out I don't have much preference as to where we should go. This is a somewhat new sensation to me. Usually I have an agenda of sorts. Don't get me wrong, there are things here I really want to do, but I'm not feeling pressed for time. Its all new and its all fantastic. I'm sure that will change over time as I start to project a few things but for now, the Rocklands is my oyster and it is delicious.

Some post domino game artwork

Monday, July 6, 2009


Our back porch

Well, we've gotten our hands on some crutches, courtesy of a kind women in the administration office. There were none available in the hospital but she had some at her home and is allowing us to borrow them. Hopefully this will make it easier for Becky to get around and still enjoy the magic of this place.

Another relatively minor health issue, I came down with a bad cold from all of the travel. I'm hoping I'm over the hump and I'm taking two days off to recover a bit. I'm afraid I'm going to infect the whole house though. There's not a lot of room to quarantine ones self here.

Sunrise out our kitchen window

After waking every morning well before sunrise for most of our first week, I think I'm adjusting to a normal sleeping pattern finally. This, combined with clearing sinuses will hopefully translate to some hard sends in the near future. Off to lunch now, cheap cheap!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

From Heaven to Hell

There's no easy way to say it so I'll just state it bluntly, Becky seriously injured her knee today on our second day of climbing. She was trying another of the fantastic problems here, one that involved a slight dyno. She partially latched the hold but came loose and fell hard and awkwardly. Judging from her scream I expected to see a compound fracture. Fortunately that was not the case. Unfortunately, the doctor in town believes she partially tore her MCL. He did not have access to an X-ray or MRI but seemed very confident in his diagnosis. I'm not sure what we're going to do, all I know is that right now we're really upset and a bit bewildered.

We'll try an update everyone when we figure things out. Hopefully next time we'll have better news.
Publish Post

Friday, July 3, 2009

Heaven Is a Place On Earth

Well, we made it. It was a absurdly long journey. About 50 hours from the time we woke up to leave at 3:30am Monday morning (CA time) till the time we arrived at the Ernie house where we'll be staying for the next two months. I got about 8 hours sleep mixed in there somewhere, but I'm not sure. I made a little video about our journey but the connection here is prohibitively slow so I won't be able to share that for a while.

The destination was well worth the headaches. This place is unbelievable. If I weren't a climber, I'd still be in awe. Its a gorgeous place. Its as if Dr. Suess and Albert Bierstadt collaborated with God to make this wonderland come alive. As a climber, I'm having a hard time coming up with reasons for why this isn't the best bouldering area I've ever been to.

I'm thrilled to be here with great friends and I feel so lucky knowing that even more are on the way. For those of you who haven't been yet (Paul, Lyn, Randy, and Alan) you won't be disappointed.

I already miss my Turtle but I hear she recently posed for some advertising photos and may be able to pay my bills when I return...Good Dog!

To wrap it up, I'll leave you all with a photo of Becky on a great problem called 'Schwupp' from our first full day out at the boulders.

Friday, June 26, 2009


My upcoming trip to South Africa is easily the most eagerly anticipated trip of my life, climbing or otherwise. Its been over a year since I first started planning it, and more than three years since I first started day dreaming about making the journey.

Over the years I've often thought about following a regular training regimen for climbing, but a lack of discipline and my desire to spend my time on real stone has kept me from spending more than a week or two on any given program. Only with the Rocklands trip in mind, was I able to buckle down and spend six weeks on a Paul Barraza's training program. As a result, I feel like I'm in the best bouldering shape of my life and, right or wrong, I expect a payoff in the form of many coveted boulders.

My goals for this trip are pretty general at this point, but they are important. Most importantly I want to have a 'full' travel experience. I want new experiences, new faces, and unexpected things to cross my path. I want to see penguins, I want to learn something about South African history, and I want to eat white rhino like a great white hunter!

As far as climbing goals go...I want to climb a bunch of classics and I want to climb some harder stuff too. I'd really like to find a testpiece that will challenge me more than any boulder problem has before AND I'd like to climb it. A tall order, I know, but this may be a once in a lifetime experience so I want it all and more.

I'll do my best to update this blog when I can. There have been times in my life when I couldn't travel or climb as much as I'd have liked, during those times it was the climbing blogs of people like Sock Hands, Jamie Emerson, and others that kept me motivated for the times when I could. I'll do my best to pay it forward, as saying goes, for those of you who are stuck in a cube, broke, or injured and unable to travel this summer.

For those of you that have or will be making the pilgrimage this summer, I'll see you in Africa!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Howl at the Moon

I went back to Burnside Lake this weekend to climb with the one and only Noah Kaufman. I was really psyched to do the project we'd tried at the end of my last day there. Here's the video of our little session.

The Wolf Pack from Princess on Vimeo.

Afterward we went back to Noah and Siemay's pad and watched an amazing movie, 'King of Kong'. I can't recommend this documentary enough. The film follows an esoteric group of characters obsessed with old school video games like Donkey Kong and Mrs. Pacman. Watch this movie.

On Day two of the weekend, I found myself at the Saddle with a posse from the Bay. It was absurd how many people were there. Both parking areas were beyond capacity and there were people parked on the road. I goofed off there a bit, not too motivated. We finally made it over to the Future boulder, which I hadn't seen before, and it looked really nice. I didn't have much time so I chucked myself at a few problems but to no avail. I'll have to go back sometime for a more concerted effort.

A final note. I leave for South Africa in one week, YESSSS!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We reset the training wall and now I want to climb on it but it's 1:40 in the AM and the gym wont be open for some time, so I'm not really sure what to do with Google Earth for boulders?

stealing holds from the course setters

Pretty sweet if you ask me. Must climb!

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Amazing Shirt

Noah's amazing shirt climbing 'Fat Man in a Little Coat'

Yesterday Becky, Peter, and I were shown around a newish bouldering area by Noah and Siemay. I say newish only because some of the boulders there have no-doubt been climbed on over the years, but recently Noah hiked around a little and found a couple of blocs that far surpass the quality of the others. I used to hike here when I'd go camping with my family as a child at Grover Hot Springs, and I'd remembered there was a lot of rock around (though I wasn't a climber then). When I saw Noah in the spring I asked him if he'd ever checked it out for climbing and he said there wasn't really much there. Then sure enough, after some Google Earth exploration he found an "AMAZING" boulder!

There is more than one boulder at Burnside Lake, but from what I saw there is ONE main attraction. Actually, there is one other problem called "Goliath" that is totally worthy too. The rock here is essentially the same rock one would find all over Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. The typical fare is near-vertical, knobby, and technical. The steepness of Noah's find, as well as the incut nature of the holds, make it really special.

Below is a video with three random problems from three different areas. The last problem is from the cool boulder at Burnside.

3Random Problems from Princess on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Most people that read my blog probably know by now about the losses of Micah Dash, Jonny Copp, and Wade Johnson. Some of you knew one or more of these guys. I had never personally met any of them and yet for some reason I've been affected more by their deaths than the deaths of the many other climbers that have passed since I took up the sport/religion 10 years ago. Alpinists are sometimes prone to romanticizing death in pursuit of their passion. I won't go so far as to say its a good way to die. It would be far better to live to a ripe old age after living one's passion to the fullest. Still, to die in pursuit of passion, refusing to play by the rules, is something I would choose over a long life lived in restraint. I just hope the friends and families of these three men can be consoled by the knowledge that their boys lived a blessed life.

Micah Dash and Johnny Copp segment of "The Sharp End" from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

My personal life has been far less dangerous than climbing new routes in the remote reaches of western China. I've moved out of Peter's place and into a storage unit, I've been training at the Great Western Power Company, and I've made it outside a few random times to climb on some new stone. Last weekend Becky and I visited the Sierra Buttes for the first time. I'd been curious about this place for nearly 5 years, ever since I spotted it on Terraserver (a precursor to Google Earth). I left with a very good impression. The rock is high quality, steep, featured, and the setting is gorgeous! The only drawbacks are the steep hike in (not that bad really cause it'll keep the riff-raff out) and the inconvenient location if you're traveling from the Bay Area. From Truckee, where we stayed, it was a mild 50 minute drive. From Oakland it's nearly four hours. Thanks to Brian Sweeny, his friend Ty, and anyone else that put in all the hard work creating the trail to the boulders.

Becky's photo of a warm-up.

Last but certainly not least, Becky had her graduation ceremony for finishing her studies to become an RN! While she'll modestly tell you that it's not that big of a deal because she still has two more years to finish her master's degree, I can honestly say that its a huge accomplishment and I'm very proud of her.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Dogs and cats living together in peace?

Having some progress with the Turtle/Bishop relations, Tuscan however, is still to fearful to join the negotiations table. Time will tell (and it will take a lot) but I see good things on the horizon. Whether or not there will ever be peace between dogs and squirrels is another matter entirely...

I also believe I'm seeing some progress with my bicep. I experienced no flare-ups yesterday while climbing and training at GWPC. If you didn't know it already, GWPC is THE place to get strong for all of your future climbing trips, smile Lyn! Becky and I arrived at the gym at 5 and we didn't leave until 10, that's pretty much ideal for me. I'd perhaps like one more hour but five ain't bad. The first three hours were spent bouldering. I'm still being very cautious with the problems I choose to climb on, but I'm feeling less and less limited. The last two hours were spent up in the gym working on the training program. Finally we headed home and I cooked a pretty damn tasty meal I dreamt up that afternoon, check it out!

It feels like its been forever since I've climbed outside. We didn't get to climb outside last weekend because of a fun hippy wedding we attended. I could go during the week but I'm trying to be really disciplined with my training program. I'm really hoping the weather holds up so we can climb this weekend. The forecast is for thunderstorms all weekend though, ugh! It'll all be worth it though because there's only 26 days till takeoff!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Turtle's Birthday

It's Turtle's birthday today. She's six years old, but still a puppy in my eyes. We went swimming at Lake Berryessa to celebrate and she got a new dog bed as her present. I'm gonna miss her like hell when I'm in Africa.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Loon Lake

Becky and I headed up the Loonies this weekend. It had been a while since I'd been there and Becky had never been. It was really nice as far as the weather was concerned, the mosquitoes were a bit much but that's par for the course in the Sierras this time of year. I forgot my camera (unbelievable right?) so you'll have to settle for old pictures from about two years ago.

Peter on 'Flight Plan'

On Sunday some of the Bay crew showed up as well as Wick and his girlfriend Kristen. It was kind of like a mini preview of the Rocklands crew because everyone there except Daniel (and the dogs) will be in Africa this summer, SICK! We decided to come home a day early in an effort to beat the heinous traffic on Monday, and because Becky had a test to take today, AND because my bicep has been bothering me a bit. I aggravated it on 'Greener Pastures' in the Valley maybe two weeks ago and it flared up a bit yesterday. I'm anxious about it because I really want to train and be in top form for Africa, but of course I don't want it to turn into a serious injury that will limit what I can do while I'm there. Argh!

In other news I'm finally moving out of Peter's house in Davis. Its gonna be a bit of a pain in the ass but I gotta get it done sooner rather than later. On a related subject... Anyone interested in having a ornery but very sweet dog for about five weeks this summer?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring Rolls

I made this for dinner from scratch and I lost the recipe before I started throwing things together. It turned out pretty well I think. In the future I'll make a few subtle changes but I'm psyched about my first ever spring rolls (with collard greens instead of rice paper wrapping). The sauce is peanut based with some rice vinegar among other things. I think it was too heavy on the rice vinegar but otherwise pretty good.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Sucks

Not Yosemite, but still good

Not entirely, but there is a lot not to like about Spring. First and foremost, it means that hot temperatures are on the way (or are already here). Second, it means no more bouldering in Yosemite for me. If I was working there it would be different because I'd be up late all the time and climbing at night wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately I'm not there working, which means driving a ton (lame!) and climbing during the day when its hot and muggy and buggy and LAME!!!

So now I gotta go climb somewhere else, or go climb routes. I'm not sure which is the better option.

Kevin leaves for Rocklands today, which is exciting because it means I'm just that much closer to leaving myself!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Want to do One of These

The warm up for bouldering from on Vimeo.

Impressive one-arm lever at the end. Not quite as pretty as Mr. Gill's but impressive nonetheless. Also impressive are the ridiculous campus boards in that gym.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More of the Same

The weather was a little uncooperative this past weekend. What was supposed to be a five day "weekend" in Yosemite was cut short by rain into a two day trip. Saturday was salvaged by going to a Giants game with Becky, John, and Shannon, so that was cool.

When we finally made it to the Valley, the weather was pretty accommodating. On Monday, Becky, Beth, and Randy all climbed 'Barrel O' Laughs,' Randy and I tried a new super-project, and Beth managed to keep her nerves intact and send the 'Woodyard Arete'. On Tuesday, Becky and I returned to the Woodyard so that she could finish up the same problem, which she'd nearly done the night before. Afterward, we wandered down the road a bit so I could try 'MSG,' which is surely one of the most overlooked problems in the Valley. We also made it over to Curry so I could finally climb on a problem I'd cleaned but never tried last fall. The problem is now called 'Fluffy White Clouds'.

A short video.

MSG and Fluffy White Clouds from Princess on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New in the Valley

Becky's pic of me trying for the first ascent of "Snowball Fight"

There are always projects, both first ascents and personal projects. This past weekend people seemed keen to work primarily on FA's. Those of us smart enough to be in the Valley were rewarded with unseasonably cool temps. Those of you (Kevin and John) that were at home have to live with your poor decision making. Suckers.

Several new problems were established this weekend. Medina put up a gem called "Something French." Actually, I don't know what its called but he said he wanted to name it in recognition of the new French friends he made on a recent trip to Fontainebleau. I was fortunate enough to do "Snowball Fight" and "The Tea Room". Scott put up another problem near "Something French," but I didn't catch the name. Scott, Tim, and Raza were all trying a cool overhanging arete the last time I saw them but I'm not sure if it was completed.

There is a video of two of the new problems, but in the interest of keeping some things on the DL for a while longer you'll need to wait to see it. Unless you're super special, of course.

I'm flying to Seattle tomorrow morning to help my sister move back home to California. I'll be back on Thursday and I might head out for a long weekend of climbing soon after.

Oh I'm also very excited for baseball this year. I'm 2-1 at the Giants games I've attended so far, which includes the Giants victory over the Dodgers last night!

Go Giants!

Friday, April 24, 2009

What Would You Do...

...If you were a billionaire? Richard Branson has some interesting ideas. If you were a billionaire would you shop here? If you were a billionaire you'd probably buy your drugs from this guy, but you'd party with a Russian. I know if I were one I'd get a hat like John D. Rockefeller.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not Sleeping

I know I've mentioned it before, but I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep or getting a good nights rest. Tonight is a perfect example. A little more than an hour ago I was feeling pretty groggy and ready for bed. Hopped in the sack, tossed and turned for a while, and here I am, sitting at the computer. I've found laying in bed hoping to fall asleep doesn't work so well, so I'm trying to keep busy.

Sometimes it is perfectly obvious why I can't sleep, anxiety, excitement, or thinking about climbing often keep me up. Sometimes I'll have had way to many cups of tea throughout the day, but I don't usually let that happen. Other times there is no obvious reason. I'm tired, mind and body, I'm comfortable, free of restless thoughts, and yet I just lie there awake for hours.

On occasion this can turn into a very creative brainstorming session. Fortunately, I usually do fall asleep at some point, but unfortunately by the time I wake up I've forgotten my brilliant ideas.

I guess you could say I'm exhibiting Insomnia-like symptoms. It comes and goes mind you. In Hueco I had about three weeks of amazing sleep despite sleeping in the back of my Subaru with my dog. Then, right near the end of the trip I started having restless nights again. I had it the worst when I was a young teenager. I vaguely remember a summer when I got about 1 or 2 hours of sleep a night. Its not that bad now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Taking a Look in the Mirror

This is an excerpt from and interview with Jean-Baptist 'Jibe' Tribout.

Most of the time I fail, but it doesn’t matter, because my goal is to succeed, instead of “not to fail”. This means I can be much more relaxed when I climb, and as every climber knows, it’s very important.

Jibe is 46 now and until recently had not been climbing seriously for about 10 years. He has already climbed as hard as 5.14b and he claims that he is nowhere near as strong as in his youth. He attributes much of his recent success to a new attitude toward climbing. The wisdom quoted above is a recent revelation, discovered in the absence of the self-imposed pressures many climbers subject themselves to.

I have to admit that when I'm climbing something particularly important to me the thoughts that creep into my head mid-climb are often along the lines of 'don't fail'. This bothers me for several reasons:

1. This train of thought doesn't manifest itself exclusively in climbing situations.
2. Its obviously counter productive.
3. This thought process can transform a recreational activity into something more akin to work.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't something I deal with everyday out climbing, far from it in fact. I can name a half dozen or so occasions (long term projects) when this became a real problem. Of course there are minor occurrences from time to time but they are usually insignificant. Last weekend for instance, while trying to top out a new problem I definitely thought "don't fail" but that was mostly out of concern for my safety and I have no regrets about that. Still, how does one deal with this type of negative thinking?

To be quite frank about this, I've been thinking a lot about going back to school over the last six months or so. I've more or less decided it is something I want to do and yet I'm having difficulty being proactive about it because of this type of negative thinking.

I understand the principals behind Jibe's wisdom but putting it in practice is something entirely different. What am I missing?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More Evidence That I'm Tired

Shortly after writing the post below I hit myself in the face with a car door. I know you're probably asking yourself, 'why would you do something like that Justin?' Well, the answer is I'm sleepy and I can't be bothered with such questions.

I've been better

All patched up

Update: I just woke up and thankfully I slept pretty well. Unfortunately my forehead still aches. At least the band-aid makes me look tough, right?


I need a decent nights sleep. I've had two really bad nights sleep preceded by one mediocre night and that resulted in a grump that can't climb much of anything. I didn't even bother going to 'Dogwood' today even though I had people ready and willing to spot. I did try 'X' finally with Raza, that was cool and HARD.

Yesterday was a bit more productive. First of all, a couple of Yosemite's finest highballs got totally gang-banged. 'Shiver Me Timbers' was the first to get the beating. I think Lyn, Beth, Becky, John, Theo, and some other dude all did it (not sure about the order). Then around the corner, 'Pinball Wizard' got shown who's boss by the same crew except for "some other dude".

Later, in a far off land that will not be described in this blog space, the posse descended upon several freshly scrubbed blocs courtesy of Mr. Chandler. There is one yet-to-be-named problem several of us did that is definitely first rate. A hard start, followed by a heady finish, with several solutions... Vintage Yosemite.

Speaking of vintage Yosemite, here's a video featuring two problems that fit that description perfectly. The first problem featured is 'Pinball Wizard,' the second is a new problem that Randy put up recently. If you don't already know where it is don't bother asking because I'm not at liberty to share. Deal with it!

A little slice of heaven from Princess on Vimeo.