Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red Rock and the Spirit of Adventure

I recently had an opportunity to do a write-up on Red Rock climbing for Travel Nevada.  It's a fun overview on the climbing variety here just outside of Las Vegas.  It has some history but focuses a lot on the spirit of adventure and how its evolved within climbing. But I think the best part is just getting the official title of "Adventurer". Take a read and I hope you enjoy.  : )

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Another Year of Adventure

Andy Reger and I on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.

Another year has passed and it appears I haven't updated the blog since June... My apologies to any of you who (once) regularly checked for updates of the latest adventure shenanigans.  I am happy so say there have been a good amount of these adventures in the last six months and the stories have been steeping in my brain like a deep roast accumulating delicilousness in my french press every morning.  Each day goes on and the inspiration to explore still comes from many angles.  Over the summer and fall I had a lot of opportunities to climb, work, travel, and explore new realms of interest.   This post won't really represent them in any cohesive manner, but at least it may touch on a few.

To start the summer off Andy Reger and I went to Yosemite National Park in California.  This mecca for climbing should be visited by all, climbers or not.  The history is rich in many realms, but to many is considered the birth place of modern climbing. To some it up the place is just radical.  Recently the film Valley Uprising was created to help share some of the highlights of climbing in Yosemite Vally of the last half a century or so. Its a pretty entertaining watch for anyone who is looking to gain some inspiration for those who climbed before us. 

Matt Kuehl leading a steep aid pitch on Leaning Tower West Face 5.7 C2.
Yosemite Valley, California. 

When Andy and I packed up my van and headed towards the valley it was a pretty exciting moment, one that I anticipated for quite some time. I have always been inspired by John Long stories of first ascents, epic failures, and having no choice but to poop it someones kitchen, etc. Ha! There is so much to say, but it's hard to quickly describe the years of mental preparation that went into this trip for me. I guess it just takes a while to gather the skills to confidently walk up the base of a massive granite feature and start climbing without reserve. I get pretty fired up I guess!  On this trip we got to climb Snake Dike 5.7R on Half Dome, The Steck-Salathe 5.10 on the Sentinel, the West Face of the Leaning Tower 5.7 C2, and then one day in Tuolumne climbing the Regular Route 5.9 on Fairview Dome. Some of the routes went easier than others, but we very pleased with our trip.  We did each route in a day and it felt good to keeping moving on such impressive features.  This trip really inspired me and I'm planning another trip this summer.  Goals are focused on El Capitan this time around, and I'm hoping for a route or two during the trip.  Thinking Lurking Fear 5.7 C2 and The Salathe Wall 5.9 C2... but it's still open for change. 

Andy Hansen looks up at our objective on Isaac in Zion National Park.

Recently I headed to Zion with old friend and fellow swillbilly Andy Hansen.  We had our sights on Tricks of the Trade on Issac 5.10+ C2+.  It's a long route, up a pretty impressive sandstone feature with a distinct headwall split but some amazing looking cracks.  We hadn't had to much time to catch up of our wall team work since we live in different areas, but we figured what the hell and went for it anyway.  Climbing anything in Zion is an adventure, so when you have your sights on something you pretty much go for it, expecting unforeseen difficulties, sandy everything, and occasional crappy gear.   We planned to the route in two days in hopes of being able to enjoy our time a little more by spreading the climbing out.  I knew this would add some additional work having to haul extra gear and water halfway up the wall, but was not afraid of the little blue-collar work up there.   The opening 5-6 pitches are adventurous offwidths and chimneys, which is pretty awesome, it just takes a lot more time because the climbing is generally slower.  Not to mention hauling a large bag through a continuous chimney... not excellent but I guess we knew this ahead of time.  We stopped a little short of out anticipated high point for the day, but still set up our bivy and watched the sun go down over the beautiful canyon.  In the morning most of our mental energy was used up, and we were slow to get moving and the thought of a dwindling water supply was also taken into account.  After a little bit of climbing we realized that we had well lost our steam.  We didn't tackle our goal this time, but we did have a great time in the process of not succeeding. 

Looking up at Tatanka 5.10, A2 on the Buffalo Wall, Red Rocks, NV. 

The Buffalo Wall is another wall that has thwarted us.  This is one of Red Rock's most remote walls, and has only 4 routes on it to my knowledge.  Majority of the routes are (or were) established as aid routes, put up in a big wall style, hauling and bringing all gear along in tow.  I only included this photos because I would like to go up there again soon.  As it turns out my aid climbing interests are not fading, but rather still growing. Perhaps this is just the beginning. Getting psyched up for hard(er) aid this year... Big Wall dreams will hopefully be realized with a little help from of those who have been up there before and can "mentor" me on a route or two. I've found it a little daunting to make the transition from "clean" aid to traditional aiding involving nailing pins, beaks, etc. A whole new level of expertise and blue-collar craftsmanship I hope to acquire. More on that as the year progresses...

Tales of the Scorpion 5.10a, A3+. Zion National Park, Utah. 

"Come and get me you bastards!" Zion National Park, Utah.

Kevin Jorgeson in Red Rocks, NV. 
On another note on Big Wall about Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell up on El Cap's Dawn Wall!?  Impressive efforts up there and it looks like they are going to finally pay off with a successful free ascent.  What's equally impressive is how much media attention it's receiving.  Usually the sport of climbing is pretty isolated from the mainstream, probably because there are just too many words and other lingo that just don't translate to the brain of a none-climber.  As an example... trying to explain what "free climbing" is to your average person...  Either way this type of climbing news only occasionally crosses over into the mainstream, despite how massively impressive the efforts are.  It's been funny to read the good, the bad, and the totally inaccurate reports from major media bosses on their efforts.  Did you know they are just hikers? Ha!  Either way... above is portrait of Kevin that I shot in Red Rocks a while back. Ironically none of the portraits I shot of Kevin got selected by the magazine who requested them.  Guess none of them fit the bill.. Perhaps it's more relevant to post one now. 

Andy Reger and I starting off the new year with some high jumps. Windy Peak, Red Rocks, NV.

The rest of this post are just a few images from trips, fun days, good times etc.  Wanted to share a few to share but no need to talk about every moment too long!  I was excited to hit the slopes skiing in Brian Head for the first time in maybe 8 years?   Before that during the summer I was able to head out to Southern California to do some video work.  It was great to get more familiar with the area, spend time on the ocean, and get get my first attempts at surfing during good swell.  It was very summer-like, and I got very sun burnt. 

Winter sky skiing/snowboarding up at Brain Head, Utah. 

Documenting some serious dance moves in Southern California. 
Andy Reger and I getting in on some "surfing" action. Mostly swimming. 

A collection of old Pitons. 

One last note... If you haven't checked out John Long and Peter Croft's "Trad Climber's Bible" make sure you do.  It's a great read and there are good selection of photos from the Matt Kuehl Collection.  It's an honor to be a part of the book, and if you see one on the shelves make sure the page through it at the very least.  Climb on!

Take a look in this for photos of some of my past adventures! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

More adventures near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Zak Romuald on Crystal Clear 5.13a in Northern Arizona.

Matt Kuehl on The Grim Reefer 5.9.  Limestone offwidth in shorts?
Northern Arizona

Andy Reger digs deep on Mary Jane's Guillotine 5.10

Zak Romuald on the slab by start to Crystal Clear.

The Oak Creek / Waterfall area near Sedona.  Basalt splitters! 

Andy Reger doing a top rope run up Black and Tan 5.10

And at some point we also went to Zion and climbed Inner Chi 5.11.  It was sweet. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pinnacle Cave, Mt. Potosi, NV.

Recently I was informed of a (relatively) new discovery in Thailand. This natural wonder was found only four years ago, and is now regarded as the largest cave currently surveyed and explored on our planet earth! Being a big fan of the great unknown, spontaneous discovery, and continuous adventure, I was pretty interested to hear more about this wonder. After doing some reading I found out that Sơn Đoòng cave or "Mountain River Cave" in Thailand is large enough to house it's own city, has a forest, and also a river. This all sounded so awesome to me, and shortly after hearing about this some friends and I started discussing all the caving in Southern Nevada. My good friend and climbing partner Andy mentioned that he knew of a cave up at Mt. Potosi just a 30-40 minute drive from the house. Although not the worlds largest, Pinnacle Cave is an adventurous limestone cave with several mind-bogling caverns that we could check out that day. Without much delay, we started driving Southwest of Las Vegas to see what this local cave was all about.

The view looking up after dropping into the cave.

This would be my first time caving, or what's also called "spelunking".  The only experience I've had that might resemble plunging into a cave is having done The Maze in Red Rock Canyon. This canyoneering route required some 22 rappels and many miles of hiking as well as swimming through narrow canyons with a pack and gear!  The two resemble each other mostly because you use rappelling as a means to get into places that would otherwise be too difficult to travel through.  They are also similar because both follow a route that was carved by water over an almost unfathomable amount of time.  This type of terrain appeals to me for the adventure and the unique way in which it makes you face the unknown constantly.  Generally once you start you can't exactly "give-up" and turn around. It is a process but generally the easiest path is the one you're already on, and it's gonna be an exciting ride. 

Vanessa and the rubber chicken about to take the maiden voyage. 
Looking down while rappelling in the dark abyss. 

Our crew for the day was a rowdy bunch.  Equipped primary with party shirts, vintage hemp ropes, and a rubber chicken, we forged ahead expecting almost certain death… or at least to loose a limb or two. Alright well maybe not exactly, but we did have some funky shirts and a rubber chicken.  It is true that only Andy and I had any extensive climbing/rappelling/ascending experience.  Next in line on the expert list was Vanessa, who first exploded onto the adventure scene after she mutlipitch-rappeled Solar Slab Gully by moonlight sometime last year.  Then there was Chris, who was likely the most intelligent individual of the group.  He was excited to take part despite never having ascended a rope (to get back out) before.  His attendance in the cave reassured us that this was indeed a good idea. Last but not least was our new house-mate Kristi, who was about to make her rappelling, ascending, and caving debut.  She likely had no idea what she was getting into, but her willingness to embrace the adventure was becoming inspirational.  

A no-flash look at the descent.
Ever try to shoot a photo in pitch black while hanging from a rope?

Caves are very dark places. Pitch black actually. It is funny how easy it is to forget this. The only bit of light that exists is at the very surface, or mouth, of the cave.  After you lose sight of that there is only darkness and silence.  Our team brought a good selection of lights including personal head lamps, small lantern style lights, and a large flash for my camera.  I made a point throughout the journey to turn off my personal light and take a look around using only the reflected light from other's lights.  I thought this helped put everything into perspective and made a larger impact of the remoteness and these spaces.  As I was rappelling down, I shot the funky-colored photo above.  My camera is set to 6400 ISO and still the image took some post-processing to present itself.  What you see above is Andy rappelling down, as the rest of group waits below.  I am hanging mid-descent and my shadow was faintly cast on the cave walls by the groups lights below.   Although it's a pretty grainy image, I was really excited by the unexpected results.

Handed over my camera so I could squeeze through the "Birth Canal".

Kristi preparing for the head-first exit of the "Birth Canal".

One of the most exciting moments of the cave is encountering the "Birth Canal".  This tight constriction seems quite improbable to pass, not to mention you've got to worm through about 10 feet of tightness to get through it.  The best, and probably only practical way to travel through is head first.  This way you can see where you're going, and hopefully not wedge yourself into the wrong hole.  To exit this section you have to semi-invert and walk on your hands for a second to get your feet back to the ground.  It was pretty radical.  The whole caving experience was enhanced by this tight and somewhat mentally challenging constriction.  I can only image being the first one to ever try and fit through! Talk about adventure...

The Music Room in all it's greatness. 

A rowdy bunch of cavers. 

The highlight of the day was hanging out in the "Music Room".  This cavern has the most aesthetic stalactites and it truly looks like something from Planet Earth the series.  I was super inspired by these formations and was really glad to have lugged my camera along with me.   I shot some photos and arranged the lights a few different ways to create some unique effects.  In the end I would love to revisit this room with more time and  also bring a tripod and some addition lighting.  Such a beautiful space really should be documented well, and I feel privileged to know about it and have the ability to record it.  Some of the features here are extremely delicate, so anyone entering this space needs to treat it with respect.  For those who are looking for an adventure and not afraid to get dirty, Pinnacle Cave has got it all.  For those who prefer not to get stuck in pitch black crevasses, I hope the photos help to share the experience. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Red Rocks Maternity Shoot w/ Adrian

I recently had a unique opportunity to shoot a few maternity photos out in the beautiful Red Rock Canyon.  Adrian was looking to do something a little different and Red Rocks was the perfect setting for some adventure-inspired maternity images. It was a fun change of pace from the climbing photography/videography I shoot more often.  Here are a few photos from our day.   

For rates and information about scheduling a portrait session feel free to email me anytime. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Year Updates: 2014

Andy Reger on his journey up Wise Guys Off Size 5.10c, Red Rock, NV.

Happy New Year! …  A little late, but now that I've said that I can move on with slightly more interesting ramblings.  The motivation and time to climb or shoot has fluctuated around the holidays as usual.  This phenomenon (as it seems) is actually relatively normal for those of us who choose to see our families, eat lots of great food, and have a few glasses of egg nog to unwind.  But now with the new year, the motivation is back in full swing and the great American West is looking like a lovely playground once again.  This year I plan to expand a little from the regiment of offwidth and aid climbing I have somehow found myself adhering to.  Not to say I will leave these fun disciplines behind, but rather I plan to take some time to explore a handful of challenging boulders, climb some finger cracks, and maybe take some massive sport lobbers off something I should probably be able to send by now.  Plenty of climbs to work on!

Slogging upwards after the crux on Malicious Mischief 5.10c.
Red Rock, NV.
For the first adventure of the year me and good friend Andy Reger decided to head up the non-classic Malicious Mischief 5.10c.  This route receives very little attention; I haven't talked to anyone who's been up it. Its position directly next to the classic Epinephrine 5.9 means that pretty much nobody really considers going up this climb anymore.  At first I thought it must be because the crux pitch is described as "scary" and begins in a "10-inch down flaring offwidth", but to me these things seemed relatively intriguing and moderately inviting.  Even before entering the crux, some complications were encountered and I soon had a few additional descriptive words to include. We pressed on through the sea of loose rock and on one pitch Andy selectively avoided the remains of an old webbing anchor wrapped around a now completely dead bush and opted for building a belay stance 15' below the crux pitch.  I then headed up the crux, which involved an unprotected traverse to gain the offwidth. After a few fist jams I was able to plug a piece and kept climbing.  I offwidthed my way through the flaring fun and soon was wedged into the base of long squeeze chimney.  35' feet of unprotected squeezing led to a neat flared tight hand crack corner, where I placed my second and third piece of gear on the pitch.  This brought me to a nice ledge which was an easy rest, but the spice was not over. 

This is when it got more interesting, again.  The climbing kind of halted, and it appeared that I would need to traverse 10' left to get into another wide crack system, which would continue to the top.  I envisioned a traverse route across, and as I started to climbing I ripped off a nice chunk of stone and stepped back down to the ledge. Yikes. Opting out of another unprotected free traverse on questionable rock, I chose to tension-traverse over (with the rope) and swung to the next crack system off to the left.  From here you enter another squeeze and offwidth up a ways until the crack becomes a tighter corner.  The rock quality is still pretty crunchy and many features are questionable.  I will leave it at that, an adventure for sure!

Inches from the send on Chinese Handcuffs 5.11d/5.12a.
Red Rock, NV. 
A little burnt-out on some of remaining obscure wide climbs in Red Rock, I decided to venture out into some smaller splitter cracks.  The Monument in Black Velvet Canyon features some nice splitters of the finger sized variety and a lot less loose rock to rip off.  It felt great to crank on just my fingers and toes after so many days spent jamming my whole leg or arm.  I still need to hone in on this smaller size, but overall I felt pretty good when I think about how these climbs felt over a year ago.  We'll be heading up soon for more work on these great crack features.  I sense sending soon. 

Snapshot from some preliminary moonrise time-lapse shooting. 

In my spare time I've also be pursuing a variety of video based projects.  I have been eager to explore some new shooting and editing techniques, so I found the challenge in time-lapse shooting.  I decided to start with shooting various moon-rises over Las Vegas and the desert at large.  As many of you know the colors at this time of day/night in the desert are incredible and very conducive for time-lapse work.  I have found time-lapse photography to be conceptually easy but more difficult to execute.  Lots of editing steps and lots of images to string together.  The procress has been exciting and things are coming together well.  Check back soon for some examples of this work.  

Experimenting with some angles for a video project on cycling. 

Being a regular bike commuter I have also been pretty interested in creating a cycling short video.  The concept remains mostly in my head, but the basic idea is to shoot a short ride using one camera placed in as many possible angles as I can think of.  Using a GoPro, this idea might seem trite before I even begin the project.  But using some artistic judgement I think this project could take on a life of it's own, and avoid being the helmet-cam catastrophe I see all too often. Although it might be a little time consuming.  I am currently in the preliminary stages of the project and have been working on bringing the ideas from my head into actuality.  A new and exciting process that I'm looking forward to figuring out. Well, that's all for now.  Hope everyone is having a fun a productive 2014. 

Flying above the snowy mid-west.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Action In Solitude: Red Rock Profile

Thanks to Kevin and Ian with Action In Solitude for working on this great video short.

Featured Routes: 
Offwidth AKA Desert-erata V2 - In Calico Basin beneath Alternative Crag.

Plumbers Crack (South side) 5.10 - In the Kraft boulder field in Calico Basin.

Trophy Crack V2 - In Sandstone Quarry just East of the Trophy Wall.

Chrysler Crack 5.9 - In Sandstone Quarry at the top of the Sandy Corridor.

Also featured by Climbing Magazine here.