Pulling Down On The New CSU Sickness

While freestyle terrain parks are a skittle thug's preferred biome, this photo illustrates the versatility and range of the species. An unknown sender on CSU's new bouldering wall.

Flourescent skittle holds, shallow faux crack systems, dozens of college freshmen in workout clothes, and shouts of “Just grab the big blue one and do a pull up!” Classic ingredients of gym climbing hilarity – and now CSU students and staff alike can enjoy the plastic send fest.

On Sunday, March 21st, CSU Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Program (formerly the Outdoor Adventure Program), dropped the rope on their long-awaited climbing wall in the campus recreation center. When I attended CSU and worked for the OAP the wall was just a dream. So last week I drove to Fort Collins to see what that dream had turned into: A 30 to 40-foot tower with 360 degrees of climbing, a arching cave in the middle, two faux crack features with a mix of finger and hand sizes, ample lead and top-rope opportunities, and dozens of bouldering problems around the perimeter. One crack, Barbarella’s Crack, 5.9, is the first gym 5.9 I’ve ever climbed that feels like a genuine old-school, sphincter-quivering outdoor crack climb. [Read More]

Fitness Assessment

Clocks are changing, sun is shining, snow is melting, and Francisco is cranking. Spring has officially sprung.

Last week, one of the head guides from the NOC sent out the annual “who’s coming back this year?” e-mail. A righteous landslide that buried road and river has pushed back the start of the season, but Ocoee guides will have been styling the Middle section for a few weekends by the time I leave Montana. That means that the clock is ticking on my summer-plan deliberation. I informed the managers there that I had to check out another option before I could commit, and Michelle and I summarily headed west toward Washington and the alpine big leagues of Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainier, as seen from Tacoma.

I’ve been interested in guiding big mountain trips for a while. I love working on the river, but I’m not really a boater (to be honest, kayaking scares me a lot; I’m not sure I can explain why I have such trouble rolling a kayak in class III whitewater and very little running it out forty feet on an ice lead, but, in the immortal words of Joe Dirt, [Read More]

Boulder Canyon Cragging

Adam, grinning up Grins, 5.8, on the Happy Hour Crag.

Once upon a spring on Colorado’s Front Range, it was warm and sunny, then snowy and cold, then warm and sunny again. And while it was warm and sunny, the climbing bug bit me. Hard. So I put on my T-shirt and shorts, packed a bag, and went climbing in Boulder Canyon for the first time. I had heard plenty about the historically rich climbing area west of The People’s Republic, and I must say it lived up to its reputation: fast, easy access; quality rock; a lifetime of short-but-sweet trad and sport routes alike; and big time weekend crowds.

On Friday my friend Adam and I climbed on the Happy Hour Wall. We warmed up on a couple 5.7s on the climber’s left side of the wall: Are We Not Men and Are We Not Robots. Both were exceptional for their grade, and featured an exposed, juggy mini-roof to pull over. Gear was thin but possible on top, but would feel pretty darn run out for a beginning leader. A fall on the roof would be bad news as your last pro is at our feet above [Read More]

Huntsman Ridge: Face Shots and Space Thoughts

Reilly Anderson. In his head I'm sure he's singing, "Powder you're all that I want, when I'm skiing down in your arms, I'm finding it hard to believe, we're in heaven."

We’ve got some classic early Colorado spring happening on the Western Slope these days. I spent most of the week hanging out in shorts and T-shirts in Glenwood Springs, but on Wednesday my friend Reilly and I made a 40 minute drive past Redstone, up to McClure Pass and back into the heart of winter. Our reward: face shots, blizzard conditions and a new take on a long-time favorite place.

From McClure pass we toured north on a snow-covered Forest Service road through spacious aspen glens to the top of Huntsman Ridge, which crests a series of east-facing bowls. Last time I’d been to Huntsman, which runs north off of McClure pass, was last October. For six days straight I had slogged up the same road Reilly and I were skiing five months later. And for six days straight I walked back down empty handed, destined for a vegetarian year (for me, the bumper sticker’s true: “Vegetarian” really does mean “poor hunter”).

Huntsman Ridge and the bowls [Read More]

Take It On the Run, Baby

A.M. top-rope training session on "Genesis I"

If you climb for any reasonable amount of time, you’re bound to build a list of past and present partners with whom you’ve tied in to the rope. These partners will fall somewhere on a friendship plane, and each one you collect can be placed into one of three major categories. For the sake of personal intimacy, I’ve named each of these categories after bands that, for reasons I’ll explain, correspond to the type of climbing partner signified. Feel free to offer your own additional category titles in the comment box.

The REO Speedwagon: This first level of climbing partner is a one-trick pony. This is a partner in the strictest sense of the term – basically a coworker. You’re there to do a job that requires two people, and the REO Speedwagon is there to help you do it. Sure, if pressed, you’d say you like this person just fine, but you wouldn’t consider the REO a friend, really. You’ll look back fondly on your time with REO – some of your best work may have even come on REO days – but if you hear from a friend who’s [Read More]

Back to the basics

Oh well, that’s life, and it’s moving along at its usual clip. It turns grey, gets dark and snows. It turns blue, gets warm, and the snow melts in a flash. Jackets to t-shirts in the blink of an eye. At the same time life stands still with the monotony and boredom of routine. To combat the despair of such a synthetic academic existence I meditate often, attempting to shed illusion and to feel present… More often than not though I end up dwelling hopefully on future events that have yet to occur. I plan, I imagine, and I waste my time in the present. I imagine that ocean of colorful rock and that ski across the frozen lake during a blizzard. Like many, I long for an escape back to wilderness. A yurt with a little woodstove, a dog for companionship, a pair of skis for transport, a rifle to hunt with, a stockpile of tequila, limes, coffee, and a shelf full of good books. Simple enough. [Read More]