The Cleanest Line

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    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

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    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" »

    Piolets d’Or 2013

    By Hayden Kennedy

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    “Some declared it the climb of the century. But did anyone repeat GIV to confirm our illusion of it? Besides, does it make sense to declare a poem the poem of the century? Can you choose a woman of the century?” – Voytek Kurtyka writing about the Shining Wall on Gasherbrum IV

    There are no winners or losers in climbing. How can there be? Isn’t the point of climbing to escape these themes of ego and competition? To surrender ourselves to the experience at hand whether that entails failure or success; to push beyond the surface of our own expectations and those others have of us into a deeper well of motivation, curiosity and mystery? In my life, some of the greatest moments have come from failure. And what does success truly mean? Reaching the summit is an obvious and logical yardstick, yet too much focus on that singular measure can blind us to more profound possibilities like surrendering ourselves to the experience at hand, regardless of whether it entails failure or success. As the prolific Mugs Stump once said, “We were stuck on a portaledge on the Eye Tooth for eight days… We don’t need the summit. Just being here, in the present, that’s enough.”

    These were the thoughts going through my head when Kyle Dempster and I were lucky enough to get invited to the 21st Piolets d’Or ceremony in Chamonix. The annual event – held over four days with plenty of red wine and good French food – typically chooses a “best” alpine climb of the year and rewards that team with a golden ice axe. Kyle and I were nominated for our new route up the south face of Ogre I in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range.

    [Above: Hayden descends Ogre I after making the third ascent of the mountain with Kyle Dempster. Karakorum Range, Pakistan. Photo: Kyle Dempster]

    Continue reading "Piolets d’Or 2013" »

    Master of Stone: Layton Herman Kor

    June 11, 1938–April 21, 2013

    By Cameron M. Burns

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    One of the greatest American climbers of the late 1950s and ’60s, Layton Herman Kor, died April 21 after a long battle with kidney problems and cancer.

    The son of a Dutch mason (Jacob Kor) who came to the U.S. in 1897 from the Oldambt area of Groningen, the Netherlands, and a second-generation German-American (Leona Schutjer) from Iowa, Kor spent his early life in Canby, Minnesota and was particularly fond of swimming and fishing, especially during Minnesota’s hot summers. He loved the outdoors.

    Editor's note: We're grateful to author Cam Burns for sharing this tribute with us. Layton Kor was beloved by many in the extended Patagonia climbing family. Says Yvon Chouinard of Layton, “He and I were Mutt and Jeff climbers, my 5'4" to his 6' plus. I’d get freaked out belaying as he would quickly run out a long lead; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold him. I never had to find out, even though we climbed all over Yosemite and Chamonix. Back in camp he was just one of the guys.”

    [Above: photo courtesy of Glen Denny]

    Continue reading "Master of Stone: Layton Herman Kor" »

    2013 5Point Film Festival Trailer



    Let's do this! From April 25 - 28, 2013 the 5Point Film Festival will take over your senses, transport you to another place and leave you inspired for adventure. Join us. Visit 5pointfilm.org for more information and tickets.

    [Video: 2013 5Point Film Festival Trailer from 5Point Film Festival.]

    Two New Products I Want to Rave About – M10 Jacket & Knifeblade Pants

    By Colin Haley

    Here is a quick blog post that doesn't include any cool climbing stories or photos, and will only appeal to gear nerds, like myself. I want to take a minute to rave about two new Patagonia products, the updated M10 Jacket and the new Knifeblade Pants. No one at Patagonia has asked me to make this blog post, and in fact, as I type this out, I'm not sure if they'll even put it up on the Patagonia blog.

    My motivation is simple and selfish. Often the very best Patagonia alpine products are discontinued after only one year on the market because they don't sell well enough. This is why some pieces which are now a cherished staple, such as the R1 Hoody, were once discontinued. I used the new M10 Jacket and the Knifeblade Pants on almost every climb I made this past season in Patagonia and they are the best alpine shell jacket and pants I've ever used – which leads me to worry that they won't sell well and will therefore be discontinued. Ironic, yes! So, I simply want to explain why I like these two products so much, in the hope that I'll be able to keep ordering them for years!

    I know that people often view product testimonials with skepticism, and obviously for good reason. I can assure you that my endorsement of these two products is 100% honest, and that I wouldn't take part in a product testimonial of a product I didn't like, even if I were asked to do so. Even for a product that I do really like, like the new Encapsil Parka, I wouldn't yet write a product testimonial for it, simply because I haven't yet used it enough to be 100% sure of what I am writing.

    So, here goes...

    Continue reading "Two New Products I Want to Rave About – M10 Jacket & Knifeblade Pants" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: Benighted

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

    DBD_5541643Great stories often have these five words, “and then it got dark.” But how can carefully executed alpine starts and planned summits turn into watching stars dot the sky? Well, getting benighted can happen for a few reasons. One: unforeseen circumstances. Two: complete denial of reality. Or three: getting too comfortable in the dark. Kelly Cordes, Ryan Peterson, and Jay Puckhaber share their tales of being out, long after the sun has set.


    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Benighted"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Editor's note: On March 15, 2013, The Dirtbag Diaries logged their two millionth download. It's an amazing milestone. If you've enjoyed this podcast as much as we have, if it has "spurred your courage to try something new, to quit a bunk job, or say yes to a deep seeded belief while others told you to play it safe," then please pledge your support for the show.

    Together we can help Fitz and Becca evolve the show and reach the next two million downloads. Thanks for listening.

    [Graphic by Walker Cahall]

    Making Tommy

    By Kelly Cordes

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    Do you ever wonder how the greats became great? Of course there’s no easy answer, no definitive answer, never a formula – they’re human, and human factors interact in infinite ways. Opportunity, natural talent, innate drive, developed drive, mental toughness, perspective, thought processes, influences, dedication, work ethic and who-knows-what-else, in various, mysterious combinations along the space-time continuum of life, probably covers most of it. OK, got it? Yeah, me too.

    It’s a fascinating topic, and the superb filmmaker Chris Alstrin’s short piece on Patagonia Ambassador Tommy Caldwell gives us a few glimpses into one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. Tommy’s also my neighbor – part of a great crew of friends in Estes Park, Colorado – and one of my heroes (by way of disclosure, I helped with writing and story development for the video).

    [Above: Frame grab from Making Tommy. Hit the jump to watch the video.]

    Continue reading "Making Tommy" »

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