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Zak McGurk's Best of 2009

Zak McGurk's Best of 2009
January 05, 2010 -  Five Ten Webmaster     

"2009, a ground breaking year for me. How did it start? One beer with my friend and role model Ben Firth. I met Ben at the local climbing gym when I was 12 years old. Since then, he has been and continues to be an inspiration to me. Ben sat me down and over a beer he let me have it.  "You have to go on a 6 month road trip. Sonnie Trotter did it, Scott Milton did it, and if you want to make it in climbing, you'll have to do it to." I took Ben's words to heart and I set off on as many road trips as I could, trying to hit that 6 month mark. Where did it take me? January - Hueco Tanks / Mexico - Month 1 After 30 hours of driving, over 2 days, myself and my two friends Marshal and Terry showed up in El Paso Texas, eager to climb at the world famous bouldering destination Hueco Tanks. We spent two weeks there, waking up at 5:30 am every morning to be the first in line for the walk in spots. We climbed everything we could get our hands on. Being not much of a boulderer, I got shut down lots, but it didn't matter, we were there to have fun and that we did. After Hueco we headed down to Potrereo and El Salto. This is where I felt more at home; clipping bolts. Marshal and I coming from competitive backgrounds, tried to onsight and flash everything we tried. We went from one climb to the next. I think we climbed 6 out of the 7 days in El Salto, leaving sore and tired, but satisfied. Countless hours of driving and over 12,000 km clocked on our car, we finally made it back home. March - Canmore - month 2 Even though I was at home in Canmore, I  still  considered this almost like road tripping. I was working 3 days a week and climbing every day that it wasn't too cold out.  Snow on the ground, the temperature in the minus's, numb hands and climbing with hand warmers in our chalk bags. And to top it off, an hour and half approach, straight up the icy death march to Battan. This is pre season climbing in Canmore. There was only four of us in town that would go. I never considered ourselves as hardcore for climbing up there in march, just motivated. April/May - Van Island / Smith Rocks / Wyoming - month 3 and 4 Feeling fit and motivated, this was going to be my trip. I wanted to climb 5.14. Me and my buddy Derek Galloway set out, our first destination, Horne Lake on Vancouver Island, Canada. Steep over hanging limestone and tufa's. Thats right, tufa's in Canada. Who knew. We showed up one week too late, the cliff was seeping. However one route was climbable. Driven 5.14a. I was nervous about getting on it, uncertain of whether or not I could send it in the time that we hand left on the island. However, one of the great things about climbing with Derek is that he never takes any excuses from me and always pushes me to my limit. He talked some sense into me and sure enough I got on it and sent it quick! My first 14! P$yched. It could have rained the rest of the trip and I still would have been happy. However, it didn't rain and there was lots of climbing to be had. I had been trying the classic I am a Badman 5.14a, in Smith Rocks. It  all came down to the last day of the trip and possibly the last try I had left in me. I was tired, sore and had no tips. I tied in for the last time and with all the pressure of sending, I finally stuck the last crux. I ripped the tape off my fingers saying " I don't care if I blow all my tips and start bleeding everywhere, I'm sending this thing." It was great ending to an already amazing trip. July/August - Canmore - Month 5 Long, steep, hard and sustained. These are the characteristics of a newly developed cliff in Canmore called Planet X. I got to know these characteristics very well, as I spent almost 2 months there this summer attempting my project called The Illustionist 5.14a. It was a route that I thought would go quickly, however, it stayed true to its name. I spent 2 months falling off the last move. I was heading out there every day that I could, no matter the conditions. I probably spent more days climbing in the rain this summer then I did in the sun. It became very frustrating for me and mentally hard. It almost damn near killed me, actually. However, I was persistent and one day everything just clicked and I cruised it first go. When I lowered to ground my belayer and I both looked at each other "beer and nacho's?" We packed our bags and left. Nothing tastes better than a Victory Beer! October/November - Red River Gorge - month 6 Kentucky? There's climbing in Kentucky? Really? If only I had a nickel for every time I heard that. And yes, there is climbing in Kentucky and it is amazing. Steep, long, big whip's and PUMPY! Oh so pumpy. These are the biggest holds that you will ever fall off of. This is by far one of the funnest trips that I have been on. I left the Red with great friends, great memories and a sore back from camping for six weeks. As my friend Vikki Weldon would say "Life is Sweet." Now I'm sitting here typing this blog, I have a dislocated finger and all I can do is work and save money for my next adventure. Where that is, I don't know, but I sure am looking forward to it! And Ben, Thanks for the Inspiration! Happy New!" - Zak McGurk Death March to Battan "Badman" - Photo credits (above and below) Derek Galloway Photo credit: Nick Rochacewhich

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