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    Going Monk?

    by Kelly Cordes

    I gotta dig down, I gotta go monk. Ever seen Zoolander? Of course you have. Me, too – about a hundred times. It’s a hilarious spoof on the world of male modeling, and there’s that classic scene of the “walk-off” challenge when, between rounds, Hansel digs deep and pulls out what’s needed to win the comp. Thus it seemed fitting to Jonny Copp and me, in 2003, to name our new route “Going Monk.” High on an obscure peak in the East Fork of the Kahiltna, as a storm rolled in, we continued, driven, summiting in a whiteout and fighting through a spooky descent.

    I wrote about inspiration, Jonny and my love for climbing in the mountains in a recent piece, The Art of Disaster Style, published in the latest Elevation Outdoors. Funny thing is that for the photo of Jonny on our route, they wrote a serious caption referencing our route name (Jonny would have loved it!). Same with a Rock & Ice editor back then, when they did a news piece and the editor asked, “Did you guys name it ‘Going Monk’ because you saw God?” Me, completed flummoxed: “Nah man, haven’t you seen Zoolander?”

    Flash forward to ten days ago: Justin Woods and I sit on a ledge 12 pitches up the Eye Tooth. Massive avalanches roar through the cirque, crashing down from the mid-day heat melting the snowpack. Alive. We’re totally safe, out on a pillar, though Justin hacks like a smoker – or, to extend the Zoolander thing – a longtime coal miner.

    Kc - justin leading IMG_5212(LR)

    [Black lung and all, Justin Woods leading on the west face of the Eye Tooth, Alaska. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Going Monk?" »

    WideBoyz on Century Crack: Talking Grades

    - By Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker

    Take a peek at the latest issue of Climbing magazine and you'll find Patagonia climbing ambassador Pete Whittaker sporting the kind of face that only climbing offwidths can produce. The story that goes with this photo: "The World's First 5.14 Offwidth." Together with his partner Tom Randall and photographer friend Alex Ekins the crew from the UK travelled throughout the American West ticking off our nastiest off-widths. Here's an excerpt from the Wide Boyz blog, discussing how the two came up with the landmark grade. -Ed.


    Ok, so I suppose it’s finally time to lay our nuts on the table and come up with a grade for Century Crack. There have been stories of superlative climbing events over the years that have been surrounded by grading controversies, climbing style arguments and conflicting personalities battling it out for the first ascent. I’m not sure that Century is any different from this; Stevie’s had his say, certain keyboard heroes have mass debated and the 9a grade has been thrown around.

    Pete Century Ekins Pic
    [Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Pete Whittaker takes a breather to avoid going batty on his attempt to climb Century Crack. Canyonlands, Utah. Photo: Alex Ekins via WideBoyz blog.]

    Continue reading "WideBoyz on Century Crack: Talking Grades " »

    Talent

    - By Kelly Cordes

    Kc - dawn at dusk IMG_3472
    [Late-day light on the Dawn Wall, on Tommy’s final effort. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    I’ve long thought that the most wasted resource on earth is talent. Talent abounds, yet optimizing its potential requires devoted effort. Of course we also have to consider opportunity, and the whole talent-and-effort issue makes regular news. There’s the “10,000-Hour Rule” of practice, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his celebrated and best-selling book Outliers – underscoring the importance of effort.  Recently I read an article about intellectual giftedness – underscoring the importance of talent.

    As far as natural ability goes, exceptional athletes are everywhere. Those who fully maximize that talent through hard work and effort, however, seem rare; I suspect they have to love it, truly love it, deep-down love it. Not just love success, or even the idea of success. Not just talk about it, and not find excuses when things get grim.

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    Recap on El Cap - Another Butt-Kicking

    - by Tommy Caldwell

    Today, Tommy Caldwell writes about the conclusion of another season of trying to free-climb the Dawn Wall. And coming up empty – though that’s really not the right word. We’ve covered his efforts in multiple posts (click here, here, or here), and it’s made frequent news in the climbing world for its nearly incomprehensible difficulty. Here’s how it feels, from the man himself. His words remind me of what it means to be grateful and of the spirit and values that matter most, which, I think, is worth remembering as we approach the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. - Kelly Cordes
     
    CaldwellR.2010.09.12576(rope end)
    [Tommy recovering after a fall on one of the many crux pitches. Photo: Rebecca Caldwell]

    The wheels of my van protest loudly as I hit the rumble strips on Interstate 70. My wife, Becca, bolts upright out of a peaceful sleep with a panicked look on her face.

    “Did you fall asleep?” she says, her eyes the size of basketballs. Did I? I think for a second. I gaze toward the passenger seat. A bit of drool glistens on her cheek and her long hair sticks straight out from the right side of her head.

    Wow, that girl is cute when she is irritated at me.

    “I guess I was just daydreaming.” I shrug my shoulders and try to put on my best puppy dog eyes.

    “Well be careful!” She curls back up in the seat and is asleep in seconds.

    The truth is, I am not even a bit drowsy. The post-expedition mind is a funny thing. Both happy to be returning home, but trying to find a way to cope with something. A kind of loss of immediate purpose. And although the trip I am returning home from wasn’t exactly an expedition, it had a similar effect on my psyche.

    Continue reading "Recap on El Cap - Another Butt-Kicking" »

    The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real – or not

    by Kelly Cordes

    Caldwell - IMG_2184
    [Tommy Caldwell moving the portaledge during his attempt to free the Dawn Wall. Photo: Rebecca Caldwell]

    Tuesday night, November 1, 9:58 p.m., posted on Tommy Caldwell’s Facebook page:

     

    “No send tonight. But the craziness of the situation struck me. Trying to climb 5.14 by headlamp during a super intense wind storm. Strangely invigorating. I love the experience but am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project.”

    I’ve often been a crusty bastard about from-the-route publicity. Ironic, I know, and indeed we all want to draw the circle around ourselves, starting with my going, “yeah but…” and explaining how my propensity to spray on the interwebs is soooo different from all that “bullshit” out there. Right. And I generally stick to it. I’m a fan of send first, spray second. That comes mostly from an alpine climbing mentality – it’s hard to imagine how you can be doing something that’s invariably publicized as “futuristic” or “cutting edge” if...hmmm...well, uh, so then, how did the camera guy get up there?

    Yeah but, Tommy’s Dawn Wall climb really is different. Different in that it’s so – yes, futuristic – difficult that Tommy’s not climbing it in some lightweight (ie. easy?) push. When you’re doing a pitch or two a day (notwithstanding the final planned day of 12 pitches up to a mere 5.13, if it all works out), then on those slow days, when you’re redpointing 5.14+, does it affect anything to have a media circus shooting photos and video?

    Continue reading "The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real – or not" »

    Family Affair on the Dawn Wall

    by Kelly Cordes

    Berkompas - 20111025-IMG_3134
    [Tommy on the Dawn Wall, practicing this one move I taught him. Photo: Kyle Berkompas]

    When I see a photo of someone climbing a severely overhanging 5.14 limestone sport route, I marvel at the physical prowess. Amazing. And though I can't imagine being that good myself, I can see how some people can do it; I can sort of imagine it. At least I can see the holds. But 5.14+ climbing on a vertical granite face? Huh? Tommy’s Dawn Wall project doesn't look like it has a single god-damned hold on the thing. The other day a handful of friends were saying how we've been on 11+ or 5.12 granite slabs and sworn that we were standing on absolutely nothing, holding absolutely nothing, and stuck, unable to move ("There’s nothing here! Nothing!"). How the hell can anything be more technical? It blows my mind.

    Anyway, Tommy has launched, and it’s going well. As you may know – he's been quite open and public about it (not that he has much choice, given that you can see the route from the road in Yosemite Valley), even posting some updates from the wall on his Facebook page. Bahhumbug, blasphemy!? I'm not so sure, and I've got some thoughts on it, and some of Tommy's, that I'll post here soon.

    Continue reading "Family Affair on the Dawn Wall" »

    WideBoyz Take on America's Gnarliest Offwidths

    Patagonia climbing ambassador Pete Whittaker, climbing partner Tom Randall, and photographer friend Alex Ekins recently arrived in the U.S. with a singular - if not enviable - objective: tick off America's nastiest off-widths.

    If you follow the global climbing scene, you might recognize the duo for their impressive gritstone resumés. In addition to floating many of the UK's hardest and highest-consequence lines, the pair earned big smiles and hearty recognition for setting a world record for the most number of routes climbed in a day (550 .. . each). Add to that the pair's thirst for unique challenges, and their desire for the ultimate thrash-and-dangle road trip starts to make sense. Case in point: Pete's also traversed the full length of Stanage [read: 4-mile-long boulder problem]. If that sounds like a good time to you, make sure your dad's name isn't Warren Harding.

    The pair is about two weeks into their U.S. tour and just finished climbing at Vedauwoo. Read on for an excerpt from their "arrival" post, and stay tuned to their blog for the latest from the land of hungry cracks.

    Eakins1
    [Pete Whittaker on-sighting Lucille at Vedauwoo. Photo: Alex Ekins via Alex's blog.

    We’ve finally made it over to America – the plane didn’t get turned around and customs didn’t find my huge stash of offwidth porn. Pete, Alex and I touched down in Salt Lake City to perfect blue skies and 20 degrees temperatures. The start to the trip was pretty much perfect and it went steadily downhill from there...

    Getting to Vedauwoo, wasn’t too difficult; although we did have a few issues with the gaps between petrol stations and what a “pickle chip” was. After driving through the night we arrived at a brilliant little campground surrounded by complex domes of rock. Pete and I couldn’t really contain our excitement and ended up running off into the woods with head torches looking for any route we knew.

    Continue reading "WideBoyz Take on America's Gnarliest Offwidths" »

    Trad Guy Sporto Tips

    Kc - trad guyIMG_3102(LR) I try to embrace all forms of climbing, and I can learn something from everything. Furthermore, the more things I’m willing to climb, the more fun I can have. Jack of all trades, master of none, baby. Wintertime? Don’t whine, ice climb. Only got a few hours? Clip some bolts near the road or go bouldering. Have a full day and clear weather? Head for the mountains. Raining everywhere? Gym climbing.

    Working at the harder technical forms, like bouldering and sport climbing, have paid dividends for my overall climbing (though I don’t boulder much – the ground falls don’t mesh with my battered body; and certain angles on sport routes are too weird on my shoulder; so it goes, we all must live with our limitations). Anyway, no doubt that rock climbing movement provides the fundamental base for all climbing.

    But on to the point of things: we all want to look cool. Or, at least, not terribly dorky (so says the guy with zero fashion sense). And nowhere else in climbing does coolness factor-in than crag-like settings such as sport crags, the gym and bouldering areas. In my attempts to embrace these forms, I’ve learned some tips – often painstakingly.

    [Lookout, it’s trad guy! Photo: Cordes collection]

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    I Know You

    by Kelly Cordes

    Kc - sky pond IMG_2233(LR)

    A breeze floats mountain air across my face and triggers of flood of chemicals to my brain. I feel something. Something familiar. I’ve been here before, at different times and in different places. Deep blue water ripples along the lake shore; stout green shrubs stand firm and stubborn against the alpine elements; orange-streaked granite encapsulates my world in the cirque. I stop on boulders beside Sky Pond, my planned turnaround for my hike-slash-gimpy-run workout, and gaze at the Petit Grepon. I feel myself there, climbing, and another flood of feelings courses through me. Though I don’t have my rock shoes with me, I wish that I did but know it’s probably best that I don’t as I scurry up the talus cone to the base and scramble around the rocks, just to touch them, to feel, to transport myself for a few precious moments.

    Familiarity. I know you. I think of the forms it can take, how it feels like love in all of its ethereal and mysterious ways.

    [Spires rising in the Sky Pond cirque, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Postcard from Chamonix: Access

    by Kelly Cordes

    I’m in Chamonix, France, for a couple of weeks. Weather started bad on the Mont Blanc massif, so we drove through the tunnel and climbed sunny rock in Italy. An 800-foot roadside dome with 40 routes, all bolted. The bolts weren’t too close, nor were they beside cracks. The routes had little placards fixed to the rock, indicating which route went where. People of all ages climbed, seemingly as normal for a Sunday afternoon as watching the game back home.

    Kc - IMG_0053
    [Parapenters (the wee white dots in the sky) soaring above Chamonix, and the south face of the Brévent. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    The next two days, as clouds enshrouded the high peaks, I climbed on the south face of Le Brévent – an otherwise two-hour approach takes a few minutes thanks to the super-fast-whisking-action of these tram-gondola thingies called téléphériques (téléphériques also access the serious mountains across the valley – Mt. Blanc, Grand Capucin, Grandes Jorasses, the Dru, and on and on and on.) We’d finish our cappuccinos and leave at the civilized hour of 10 a.m. or so, climb a four-to-six-pitch route, and be back down sipping wine and eating cheese at an outdoor café by 3 p.m. Quite civilized, indeed.

    Kc - IMG_0089
    [Walker Ferguson coming up the final pitch of the Frison-Roche route on the south face of the Brévent. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Postcard from Chamonix: Access" »

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