Red River Gorge (November 9-12, Veteran's Day)
After two two-hour flights and a two-hour drive we were finally back in Kentucky. The psych was high and I was ready to get to work! I had less than 4 days to climb, so the next morning we were up at 7:00 am... on a weekend (I know, crazy right?) to go climbing at the Bob Marley crag.
I had decided that for this trip I was going to get out of my comfort zone, and try some really hard climbs, just to see how I would do... So, after two quick 5.12 warm-ups I got on Fifty Words for Pump 8c+ (5.14c). This climb breaks down into three sections. The first part is 4 bolts of powerful-dynamic climbing on pretty good holds, the second part are the hardest moves on the route. It is a 7C (V9) boulder into a good rest before heading into the third part which is about 5 or 6 bolts of crazy pumpy 8b (5.13d) before reaching a potential heart breaker finish move right at the top. In simpler terms it's a long hard boulder into an even harder boulder into a good ol' Kentucky pumpfest.
I surprised myself as on my first try I managed to do all the moves, and clip the chains (with a few falls along the way). After a quick rest I got back on and linked all of the first part and fell on the V9 crux. I gave it two more more tries after that and then we headed back to the beloved Miguel's Pizza, where we were camping, and had dinner with Eric & Cameron Hörst, Margo Hayes, and Urs Moosmüller.
Unfortunately Cameron and Margo were nearly at the end of their trip, so I didn't get to climb with them.
On Saturday we headed back up to the Bob Marley crag and I gave Fifty Words for Pump another try and when I got back down to the ground, our (crazy strong) friends Mélissa Le Nevé (France) and Jacopo Larcher (Italy) showed up! I took a little break and watched Mélissa give Southern Smoke 8c/+ (5.14b/c) a try and... She Sent!!! Jacopo then proceeded to simply annihilate Southern Smoke Direct 9a (5.14d)!!! After their "send train", Mélissa offered to belay me on Southern Smoke.
Southern Smoke differs from Fifty Words in that the cruxes are not nearly as hard but it is constantly difficult the entire way. I gave it just one try, and I now know that I will send it someday soon...
We then headed over to the Purgatory crag, as Mélissa and I wanted to check out Lucifer 8c+ (5.14c). Mélissa almost flashed it as she fell on the last hard move. I got to the chains with just three falls, but by then it was getting dark, and I was getting tired.
That evening Mélissa & Jacopo invited ny Dad and I for dinner. I have to say, as world class climbers go, these two are just awesome.
The next day we went back to the Bob Marley crag, and I sent Ultra Perm 8b (5.13d) second go. By now I only had half a day left, so I decided to try my luck at onsighting. We went to the Motherlode and after a few warm-ups, I onsighted Bohica, my first 8a (5.13b) onsight! Only 15 minutes later I onsighted Flour Power, my second 8a (5.13b) onsight! My Dad was telling me to keep going on the extension, but I was so excited, I didn't hear him and completely forgot about it. After that I tried to onsight Hoofmaker 7c+ (5.13a) but fell on the initial bouldery sequence due to a dumb mistake. I was really mad at myself, so as soon as I got lowered down, I untied, pulled the rope, tied back in, and sent it second go.
By now it was time to pack and head to the airport. My short 3.5-day trip was over. I wish I had had a few more days to get back on Lucifer, Southern Smoke, and Fifty Words for Pump... I'll be back!!!
Smith Rock (November 18-25, Thanks Giving)
My first visit to Smith Rock in June 2012 wasn't the greatest. It was hot, and I was uncomfortable on the scary technical slabs with long run-outs. So I had planned to start by getting used to the rock during my first few days, but I guess climbing slabs in Céüse last summer must have helped my technique... Already by the second day I had redpointed Chemical Ali 8b+ (5.14a) and Chain Reaction 7b+ (5.12c), and onsighted Taco Chips 7c+ (5.13a)! So, I guess I was off to a pretty good start!
Did I tell you how cold it was??? No??? Well it was freakin' cold, and windy!!! My Dad and I brought a sleeping bag to the cliff to keep us warm during the rests. We had chemical hand warmers in our pockets, and I even put one into my chalk bag to warm up my fingers while I was climbing!!!
The 3rd day it was raining hard, and I took what ended up being my only rest day in 8 days of climbing. That evening was when our good friends the Ruana's were coming and we were psyched to get out and climb with them the next day. After Drew and I warmed up on Latest Rage 7b (5.12b), Drew and his Dad, Rudy thought I should try a few Smith Rock "classics". So, they got me on Rude Boys 8a+ (5.13c), and when I first started I felt pretty bad, but move after move I weirdly started to feel better and better.
Drew gave me great beta on the initial hard bouldery section, and as I was moving through the cruxes apparently people started realizing that I might have a shot a flashing it. So everybody was encouraging me, and yelling at me to stay focused through the long scary slab finish... I actually hadn't realized I was flashing it until I was one move from clipping the chains... but I did!!! My hardest flash so far!!!
I never considered myself a big onsight/flasher, but by now I was so psyched that I went and tried to onsight Churning in the Wake 7c+ (5.13a) and when I got to the chains my Dad and Drew were yelling up at me to keep going, and I'm glad I did as I ended up onsighting the extension as well, Churning Sky 7c+ (5.13a)! That was an awesome zero-fall day, where I onsighted or flashed every climb I attempted including my warm-ups and some more 5.12's...
Drew came with just one project in mind. He's working To Bolt or To Be 8b+ (5.14a). It's an intimidating looking climb on a long, perfectly vertical, slab with tiny pockets and crimps. Drew didn't send, but he made good progress. I know he'll send it soon. Maybe when we go back in January?
The Ruana's invited us for Thanks Giving dinner with their family and they also invited the Robertson's. We had fun playing cards, buildering on their bedroom stairway, and stuffed ourselves with an amazing dinner.
Over the next few days I was able to send two more 8a (5.13b), Oxygen and Slit Your Wrists, both on my second go! I also sent numerous more "classics" that the Ruana's had in store for me.
I also worked on Scarface, another 8b+ (5.14a). I got nerve-wreckingly close on my last day. I did it with just one fall... next time... By now, our trip was over and I was getting psyched to finally change my focus to bouldering....
Pinnacles National Monument (December 15)
....Wwweeellll... maybe after one more thing... So on the first weekend that it wasn't raining in "Sunny California", we headed out to Pinnacles National Monument so I could attempt to finish Übermensch 8b+ (5.14a). Übermensch was a climb bolted by Sterling Keene, and first climbed by Chris Sharma when he was 13 years old. I know Sterling because his daughter Shani is in my school and she also competes in climbing. Small world...
The climb follows an overhanging arête on tiny shallow crimps and pinches. It is short, but very powerful and bouldery with hard lock-offs. I think it was originally rated 8b (5.13d), but the rock at Pinnacles is volcanic conglomerate, and many holds have broken off Übermensch, and it's now considered to be a hard 8b+ (5.14a). When I first looked at it while working on Lard Butt (it's another climb... don't ask...) it didn't appeal to me at all, but Anthony Lapomardo and my Dad convinced me to try it, and it ended up being surprisingly fun to climb. I had worked it a couple of days before and had gotten close to sending so I came with full confidence that today would be the day...
And so it went.. after a quick warm-up and one run on it, I sent it! My fourth 8b+ (5.14a), and also my 32nd 7c+ (5.13a) to 8b+ (5.14a) in less than a year!!!
Anthony Lapomardo took some awesome pictures and is editing a video of my Pinnacles Adventures.
Also, the picture he took of me sending Hot Lava Lucy just got published full page on the Winter issue of California Climber Magazine!!!
Ok, I believe this was my "Last Sport Climb of 2012". Now I can officially focus my attention on bouldering. In less than a week I will be going to Bishop over Christmas and New Year. We'll be camping at the Pit for two weeks... Breakfasts at Schat's Bakkery, awesome bouldering with friends (Drew is also coming) at The Buttermilks, The Happy Boulders and The Sad Boulders, and Mexican food... I'm sooo psyched!!!