The Cleanest Line

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    Dirtbag Diaries: Home Front

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

    DBD_homefrontThere's a story that you may have heard kicked around in the newspapers and nightly news for the last few months. It's as unsettling as it is tragic. The rate of suicide among active military personnel, reservists, and veterans has increased to nearly 22 suicides a day. 22 every day, even as more resources are being allocated to prevent it – and finding a solution is likely as complicated as understanding why.

    Veterans Stacy Bare and Nick Watson know the struggles that service members face as they readjust to civilian life. Addiction. Depression. An overwhelming feeling of being out of place. But over time, both found a place in the outdoors and the surrounding community to recreate what they missed from the military, and to feel like they had really come home. And they didn’t stop there – they became determined to find a way to make that transition easier for other veterans too. Today, we bring you their stories and the story of how these two veterans are creating a community for other veterans on the home front.

    Warning: This episode does contain graphic descriptions of violence and adult language.



    Editor's note: If you enjoyed this episode, check out "A Lifeline Home" from 2007. 

    The Dirtbag Diaries is a production of Duct Tape Then Beer. Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS,
    SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.

    [Graphic by Walker Cahall]


    The Final Frontier

    By James Lucas

    Final Frontier_Schaefer_1


    I screamed at the granite wall. The sound bounced off Yosemite’s Fifi Buttress and drowned into the roar of Bridalveil Falls. I lowered to the belay, where Katie stood at a small stance. I was six inches from a free ascent. It felt like six miles. I’d cleaned the route. Pulled out old gear. Placed bolts. Climbed on the pitches a ton. I’d trained hard. I stopped sleeping. Would the work ever pan out?

    Dan McDevitt established The Final Frontier, a Grade V 5.7 A3 route in 1999 with Sue McDevitt, Brittany Griffith and Sue’s sister Penny Black. He climbed the route again with Jim Karn, the first American to win a World Cup in climbing and America’s best sport climber in the '80s. While they were climbing, Jim Karn told Dan, “It’ll go free.”

    [Above: Mikey Schaefer photo of me climbing the penultimate arch pitch.]

    Continue reading "The Final Frontier" »

    Deep Water Soloing on Mallorca

    By Brittany Griffith

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    My ADD extends beyond the fact that I can’t finish vacuuming a room before checking my email, watering a plant or making fried rice from leftovers. It’s present in my climbing endeavors as well. But I do recognize what it is about, the different disciplines I appreciate most. My favorite thing about trad climbing: the adventure; my favorite thing about sport climbing: the movement; my favorite thing about bouldering: the no-hassle factor; and my favorite thing overall about climbing: it makes me try harder than anything else in my life. And yet, despite my love for all those forms of climbing that are typically found in the mountains or desert, I prefer to be on the beach. The seas and oceans somehow vitalize me more than the mountains.

    Enter deep water soloing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It’s got it all: adventure, movement, low-hassle, you gotta try hard, AND it’s on the beach! After two weeks of climbing on perfect limestone above the sea I was hooked. Sign me up for Spanish classes, I’m moving to Mallorca. (Locals speak in Mallorquin, which is a form of Catalan, which, I’m told, is a mix of both French and Spanish. I speak French, so I figure I’m halfway there.)

    [Above: One of the first 7as we did at Cala Barques, Metrosexual, a classic line of jugs that's not too high above the calm sea. A perfect primer for the steeper, harder routes to come. All photos by Jonathan Thesenga]

    Continue reading "Deep Water Soloing on Mallorca" »

    Scramblin' Around the Sierras with Spoodle and Beater

    By Jasmin Caton

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    I have known Rich Wheater (AKA the Beater) and Senja Palonen (AKA the Spoodle) since my very first summer of rock climbing in Squamish. We were introduced by a mutual friend one morning at Starbucks (back then everyone hung out there to find a climbing partner in the morning) and they invited me to join them on a mission to climb Sunblessed on the backside of the Chief. Sunblessed was reputed to have a five-star second pitch of 5.10a crack climbing. Rich and Senja were kind enough to let me, a climber of a mere few months, lead this amazing pitch using their rack, and it was one of the most memorable days of my first climbing season.

    [Above: Our cosy camp below the Incredible Hulk. Photo: Senja Palonen]

    Continue reading "Scramblin' Around the Sierras with Spoodle and Beater" »

    Viva Los Fun Hogs – A #Funhogging Origin Story

    By Jeff Johnson

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    I used to dread the summers on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawai’i. Famous for its winter surf, surfers from all over the world come to see what they are made of during a certain time of year. In the summertime, the waves go away and the crowds dissipate. My friends and I dreaded the four months of flatness. We eventually realized if we remained surf-centric we would have been primed for the loony bin. So we began embracing other ways to entertain ourselves.

    We got into paddleboarding, which was perfect for staying fit for the next winter season. Then we got into outrigger canoe surfing and bought a four-man for the job. This eventually led to building a six-man sailing canoe to circumnavigate the island. Then a few of us bought one-man canoes for times when no one else was around. During the summer, our beach was packed with a fleet of ocean craft, ready for any condition, waves or no waves. Eventually, we all started looking forward to the summer months. No crowds, a flat, beautiful ocean, and all sorts of ways to enjoy it.

    [Above: The author has finally joined Instagram. Follow his antics at @jeffjohnson_beyondandback. #funhogging]

    Continue reading "Viva Los Fun Hogs – A #Funhogging Origin Story" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: Mikey Buys A House

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

    DBD_Ep_68We've told stories about people quitting jobs, ditching mortgages and selling worldly possessions to go live life on their own terms. The road is ubiquitous with freedom, and sometimes we hear its call later in life. But what if you heard the call at 13 years old? If you had lived your entire adult life on the road? If you'd never signed a lease or even paid rent. Would there come a time to settle down? Meet climber and photographer Mikey Schaefer. Passion can lead to the most incredible places, even to the most American of dreams -- buying a home. This is our version of the picket fence.



    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com to discover the music from "Mikey Buys a House," listen to The Shorts and pledge your support for the show. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

    [Graphic by Walker Cahall]


    From a Wheelchair to the Sharp End – Story of the First Ever Paraplegic Lead Climb

     By Dave N. Campbell

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    Sean O'Neill lead climbing the 2nd pitch of Jamcrack. ©Dave N. Campbell

    Take a moment and imagine yourself in Yosemite. You are climbing up a steep rock face, above the trees, with Half Dome behind you, but you do not have the security of a rope that can pull you taut from above if you get tired or slip. Instead, you are lead climbing. Somewhere down below a friend is feeding you rope – you are tied in at the waist – and every ten feet or so, as you move upwards, you are obligated to wedge man-made devices into openings where the rock is fractured so you can clip your rope into them as a safety measure. You're putting your life on the line, trusting that the rope will eventually come tight on the most recent one of these devices if you fall.

    Climbers refer to the procedure of lead climbing as being on the sharp end of the rope because of the inherent dangers involved and the accelerated focus that is required. And while advanced climbers constantly dream about being in this Yosemite scenario, I think it is fair to say that much of the rest of the population would find themselves in a nightmare.

    Now picture yourself in this exact scenario – whether you are an experienced climber or novice – except that you are paralyzed from the waist down. This is where most of our imaginations trail off… but this spring in Yosemite Valley, paraplegic climber Sean O’Neill made this his reality by becoming the first “sit climber” to lead climb.

    Continue reading "From a Wheelchair to the Sharp End – Story of the First Ever Paraplegic Lead Climb" »

    Of Rats and Men

    By Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll

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    If you are chained to a wall in a dark dungeon famished rats will slowly nibble at your flesh. You can kick, scream and quiver all you want but the rats will sluggishly keep nipping away until they reach your heart and your body goes lifeless. Then they keep going until there is nothing left.

    While that might seem like a torture scenario from the Middle Ages, I’ve seen it happen many times. When the bad weather comes, and stays, day after day, and you’re stuck in a tent, a cave or a portaledge, every day you wake up with renewed hope that is quickly crushed by the same old bad weather. Much like the rat slowly eating the corpse, the Patagonian weather has a way of slowly nipping at your motivation. It can transform the most eager and enthusiastic climber into an empty, burnt out, uninspired bum. And when the good weather finally comes, there is nothing left.

    [Above: Cold conditions during a summit attempt on Cerro Catedral, in Torres Del Paine, Chile. All photos courtesy of Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll]

    Continue reading "Of Rats and Men" »

    The Art of the Resole

    By iFixit

    Recycle_resoles_5

    Mark Sensenbach perches on a stool, back slightly hunched, eyes down, brows narrowed in concentration. His hands, toughened by mountains and work, maneuver the rubber sole of a climbing shoe against a sanding wheel.

    His movements made smooth by practice, Mark runs the shoe back and forth, rotates and repeats. He draws it away from the wheel for a moment and thumbs around the edges of the shoe, feeling for imperfections. There must have been a few, because the shoe goes back to the wheel once again.

    Mark looks up and smiles. “That’s pretty much how it goes in here,” he says, gesturing around his workshop.

    Continue reading "The Art of the Resole" »

    Throw the Line

    By Marta Czajkowska

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    Any wall climber will see that something is missing in that photo, trail line. The leader trails a small line so they can pull up a haul line to haul the bag. Right where the photo was taken, at the lip of the roof, Dgriff realized that he’d forgotten the trail line.

    "You have to throw it to me!" he shouted.

    "You know well enough that I can't throw," I replied as the sun was setting.

    "I'm going to either down-lead and re-lead, which is going to take an hour or so, or you have to throw the line."

    I started organizing my belay to gain time to wrap my head around the throwing. Dgriff yelled again using his favorite Kurosawa quote, "STOP STALLING AND THROW THE LINE OR WE WILL BE PLENTY DEAD!"

    [Above: David Griffith heads up the final 20-foot roof pitch of Wet Denim Daydream, Leaning Tower, Yosemite California. Photo: Marta Czajkowska]

    Continue reading "Throw the Line" »

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