Finishing off the USA

Firstly I would like to apologise for the quality of spelling, grammar and picture quality on my last post. I have just re read it on my laptop and am disappointed in myself, to be fair I wrote it on my phone whilst driving around a desert. We (Rachel and I) have now returned to the UK in order to frighten ourselves with job interviews and such like. This post will be a round up of the climbing trip in the US, with some photos which overlap with the previous post.

I mentioned that we’d got pretty excited about long exposure photo’s, we even broke the stingyness and bought a new (super heavy) tripod which is great.

Here’s some photos of the camera of some of the climbs/shenanigans I wrote about last time (Clicking on the photos enlarges them):

Cramped sleeping quarters for a 6'2" muppet.

Cramped sleeping quarters for a 6’2″ muppet.

Rachel monkeying around on an 11a at Turtle Rock, St George, Utah.

Rachel monkeying around on an 11a at Turtle Rock, St George, Utah.

Zion Snow

Zion Snow

Utah, a land of contrast.

Utah, a land of contrast.

Arriving in Red Rocks, Las Vegas a spot of post storm bouldering was called for.

Arriving in Red Rocks, Las Vegas a spot of post storm bouldering was called for.

Rachel begins the rampage by sending Fear and Loathing, 12a

Rachel begins the rampage by sending Fear and Loathing, 12a

Red Rocks, post storm.

Red Rocks, post storm.

Emily crushing Sweet Pain, 11d.

Emily crushing Sweet Pain, 11d.

Food time.

Food time.

The rest of the squad turn up and Jenny gets on Yaak Crack, 11c. (30 minutes later it became my first 11c lead)

The rest of the squad turn up and Jenny gets on Yaak Crack, 11c. (30 minutes later it became my first 11c lead)

Rachel flashing (1st go) Cannabis, 12a, at Cannabis Crag.

Rachel flashing (1st go) Cannabis, 12a, at Cannabis Crag.

Rachel turns on 'beast mode' on The Pearl

Rachel turns on ‘beast mode’ on The Pearl

Who said a climber needs to maintain 3 points of contact?

Who said a climber needs to maintain 3 points of contact?

Jenny crimping up The Pearl V5.

Jenny crimping up The Pearl V5.

Jenny swims through the sea of jugs on the Stratocaster Wall

Jenny swims through the sea of jugs on the Stratocaster Wall

Stripping off in Las Vegas

Stripping off in Las Vegas

I love Forest Gump.

I love Forest Gump.

Getting pumped and lifting the elbows on a hard 11a.

Getting pumped and lifting the elbows on a hard 11a.

Rachel dancing up Footloose 11b.

Rachel dancing up Footloose 11b.

Time for Trad on Christmas Eve. Cutloose 5.10d.

Time for Trad on Christmas Eve. Cutloose 5.10d.

5.8 'Sport Chimneys' are hideous.

5.8 ‘Sport Chimneys’ are hideous.

It rains, time to go to the Urban Crag.

It rains, time to go to the Urban Crag.

'I'm Sure the rope will reach.'......

‘I’m Sure the rope will reach.’……

The beast in action on Gimme Back My Bullets, 12a, at Sunny and Steep

The beast in action on Gimme Back My Bullets, 12a, at Sunny and Steep

So as I said before we left Vegas and Red Rocks and headed to California. First stop was Hisperia where we spent one day climbing at the Apple Valley crags. This area was full of large granite boulders, with generally technical and balancy face climbs. With the change of rock type and style of climbing the grades became less soft compared to Red Rocks. I was super psyched to tick loads of routes and managed 11 in total. A highlight route was a technical and crimpy 11a which I managed to onsight. I did however get shut down by a nails 5.10.

Jenny and Rosemary playing in Apple Valley

Jenny and Rosemary playing in Apple Valley

Rosemary conquers.

Rosemary conquers.

The next day was a rest day and we headed down to LA where we played on the rings and ropes at Santa Monica muscle beach before walking 4km down passed Venice Beach and all its herb doctors. With all the pull ups and 8km of walking we didn’t feel very rested. That night I was searching for Hughey and Ralph in the toilet, I dont know how I got food poisoning but it sucked and I ended up missing the next days climbing.

$40 for a weed prescription.

$40 for a weed prescription.

The squad climbed at a sandbagged crag called the lookout. I made myself a little nest at the bottom of the crag and dozed off but evacuated after Jenny kicked a boulder onto my face. I wanted to sleep but not be unconscious.

My nest, all peaceful and cosy until a passing rock smashed my head.

My nest, all peaceful and cosy until a passing rock smashed my head.

The next two days were spent climbing at Echo Cliffs in the Santa Monica Hills. This crag was decidedly better than the Lookout. A 45 minute walk in was a nice warm up and the long routes and warm sunshine took away the pain of a burned stomach and bruised head. The rock was a strange conglomerate type, with pebbles seemingly stuck into a softer more snappy rock. here were pockets where pebbles had fallen out and a lot of glue to stabilise dodgey holds. The first day was spent at the Java wall, sadly the classic 11b corner of Caffeine was wet but the two 11a’s of Expresso and Americano were very nice. Rachel made a very impressive on-sight of Cappuccino 11c and we all had a play on Java 11d which was super fun moves on weird pockets.

The second day at Echo was New Years day and as a good start to the year I flailed and dogged my way up the warm up Death by Chocolate. We then moved onto the cruxy 11b Restrain This, Rachel, Jenny and I both fell off this too. Could’ve done it second go but kinda felt sick and lazy. Rachel tried Split Decision 11d which was desperate, before lunch  was chomped. Jenny and I frigged up Split Decision on top rope, while Nige got all excited about a toe hook on Pretty in Pink 12a. After this we bailed and headed back to the car at an earlier time than usual.

An 11a on the Java Wall, Echo Cliffs CA

An 11a on the Java Wall, Echo Cliffs CA

A long drive down to Hollywood and out to Joshua Tree ensued. I was told tall tales of a magical pancake machine and got all excited for breakfast. The following morning revealed this machine and I made the mistake of only getting one pancake, I resolved to get 3 the next day.

The drive into Joshua Tree National Park was pretty amazing. It’s a totally alien landscape, the combination of crazy Joshua tree forests and the gigantic granite eggs is beautiful. We spent the morning scrambling around in the wind and shade searching for sun and shelter. Eventually we arrived at the Cathouse wall which would suffice.

Joshua Tree has a very long climbing history, Lynn Hills book tells of this magical place full of hard and bold climbs, each one with a story of its own. It also has a very big reputation for being nails hard. The rest of the squad all had J-Tree experience and agreed that a drastic grade drop would be required. The first 5.9 proved the rule, a tenuous slab requiring nifty footwork. The next 5.8 crack was nice, I then went and grunted up another 5.9 while breaking the holds at the same time. a 5.7 death route was a nice finale. The shade caught us up and we ran around to The Real Hidden Valley and the Brown Wall. There was an obvious crack line called Jerry Brown that looked super, naturally I asked Rachel to lead me up it. The hefty grade of 5.10b was scary but the route looked so appetizing. With fading light Rachel agreed, and set off up the initial bold section, reaching the base of the crack, the gear was not as good as hoped and a couple of hard moves were required before a good placement. The rest of the climb was better protected and more straight forward so went pretty quickly. An onlooker then commented that Jerry Brown was the hardest 5.10 he’d ever top-roped. It was tough and a superb lead but I don’t think that guy had done many 5.10′s.

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Rachel on Jerry Brown 10b trad. Photo Credits to Jennifer Slater.

That evening, after dinner, we headed into the Lost Horse Campground to take some night photos. We made a (failed) attempt at a time lapse and stumbled around trying to avoid cactuses.

Cacti by moonlight.

Cacti by moonlight.

Star trails attempt 1.

Star trails attempt 1. Photo credits: Rachel Slater.

The next morning the pancake machine was broken, very upsetting. We spent the morning  getting worked on some boulder problems. Rachel was not keen for this and after failing to pull onto a hand ful of V2′s my motivation dropped too. The trad hating Jenny proved that she was stronger than us all by pulling on and even managed a few problems. Team mad-for-trad wolfed down lunch and ran over to Echo Rock (not to be confused with Echo Cliffs in Santa Monica) where I was sent up Heart and Sole, 10a. The route wandered up an initial slab(crux) around a small roof before gaining a super fun corner. I scared myself a bit when I dynamically rocked onto a rubbish foothold with careless abandon above an iffy nut on the way to the first bolt. Too much sport climbing seems to switch off the brain a little, which I guess is good sometimes but not when falling off has consequences.

We used the anchors from Heart and Sole to top rope the adjacent 10b slab which was absolutely horrific. The first move was to stand up on an almost vertical smear with awful hand holds and then do something hard, which I cant remember because it was too hard. The rest of the route involved sustained but less difficult smearing which left the toes feeling worked.

We grabbed a Pizza and drove off back towards Red Rocks, stopping for half an hour to take some photos in the Mojave National Reserve.

Mojave. Creds to Rachel Slater.

Mojave. Creds to Rachel Slater.

Back in Red Rocks it was time to start using the arms again. We went to the super steep Tsunami wall so Jenny could have a luck at something proper hard but we all got shut down by the crux on Abandon Ship (12a). Chastised we headed further up the hill to Jane’s wall. Rachel on-sighted the classic 11d Idiots Rule, I then went and fell off almost every move on the top rope, poor effort as it was probably my style (not that I’m sure what ‘my style’ is). The lower wall offered a couple of short 10′s and a complex 11 which we all ticked before lunch. We were told that the 10d See Dick Fly was a classic, but pumpy and probably under graded. This made me worried as my arms didn’t feel very awake, after Rachel the queen of enduro declared it as pumpy and ‘almost as hard as Idiots’ I wasn’t expecting a send. Somehow it felt fine, just required some mental coaxing to keep going and one small grunt. Jenny was sulking because she didn’t get a go on Idiots before the locals took their draws out, I think she must have read her ‘Maximum Climbing, Mental Training Book’ because she suddenly decided to do it putting her own draws in. She made it look pretty easy and it was good to watch. Well done Jenny.

Red rocks panorama.

Red rocks panorama.

On last look around Vegas and a peep down Fremont street.

On last look around Vegas and a peep down Fremont street.

The Calico Hills

The Calico Hills

The next day was the final full day of the trip for the whole squad. Team Canada had their flights book and although Rachel and I wanted to stay the slow reply from a potential employer regarding the possibility of a Skype interview forced us to head back the following day as well. We headed back to Cannabis Crag, Rachel still had some 12a’s to beast and I was keen to work Synapse Collapse into submission. Somehow the whole world and its tiny crappy dogs were at the crag. Synapse was getting lapped for everybody’s warm up and I was not keen to fight for a spot in the queue. Rachel put the clips in her route of choice, KGB 12a, with rests, as a warm up. I dithered about below Synapse before giving up and belaying Rachel as she sent KGB like a hero. I decided I should top rope it to warm up as it didn’t look likely that Synapse would be free soon. Sods law dictated that as soon as I was done Synapse emptied. I rested a little and wandered over, psyched was low after being grumpy about the queue. It was as I remembered, easy until the last clip where the holds still felt good but I was unable to hang off them comfortably enough to clip. I fell twice before finally getting the clip, I scrapped my way to the finishing jug but was all over the place and barrel rolled off the top before getting the changed. Thoroughly pissed off I sulked about for the rest of the day. If it hadn’t been so busy and I wasn’t so grumpy before starting I should have clipped the last bolt and then spent a while figuring out the perfect beta to make that clip. The rest of the afternoon was spent saying ‘Hi’ to Dave Graham and watching Jenny and Rachel crush other peoples boulder projects. I spent the whole night thinking of how I should have tried harder and used a drop knee on Synapse.

Rachel on Fire Fresh Traverse V5/V6

Rachel on Fire Fresh Traverse V5/V6

Jenny on Fire Fresh Traverse V5/V6

Jenny on Fire Fresh Traverse V5/V6

The following and final morning was spent playing in the Kraft Boulders, which included this cool chimney that the girls had done the previous day and a disgusting mantle problem that left me with belly rash.

Manteling is hard.

Manteling is hard.

Rachel wants to be a chimney sweep.

Rachel wants to be a chimney sweep.

Just push a little harder. Photo creds: Rachel Slater.

Just push a little harder. Photo creds: Rachel Slater.

We ran back from the boulders and dropped the high flyers off at the airport before turning on the cruise control and blasting north towards Salt Lake City. We drastically miscalculated the time it would take us to drive to Montana the following day and set our alarm for far too early, which was compounded by the time zone change. So it was bleary eyed that we battled through the rush hour traffic in Salt Lake. The roads were clear the whole way but Utah and Idaho were blanketed with snow while, somehow, Montana was bone dry. We swapped drivers regularly and took an extended break in Dillon to pay another visit to the Patagonia outlet. Again I was disappointed by the fit of their clothes and to be honest some of the technical wear didn’t seem that good even if it did fit. The jumpers  and t-shirts were super soft though. We arrived in Helena way earlier than we expected and debated soldiering on for another 6 hours to get back to Calgary. Rachel had an online test to do for a job app so we decided to stay in Helena and Rachel used Sarah’s laptop while she wasn’t tired. It was a bit of a struggle to find some food in Helena that wasn’t a fast food chain or a super expensive shirt and tie joint, we settled for the Staggering Ox which was an odd place but made some OK food. We had a nice chilled evening at Sarah’s and Rachel bossed her test.

The following day’s drive was only 6 hours, the border crossing went smoothly and we were super psyched to get Timmies again. Almost immediately we realised we needed to back in the UK soon as Rachel’s job interviewers would rather rearrange than Skype  luckily there were some cheap flights on the Saturday which we booked. I got ill so spent a couple of days in bed leaving Rachel to tidy up my mess in the office as well as; writing her interview presentation, shopping for interview clothes, baking a delicious cheesecake and squashing all our stuff into two back packs. We flew back to England bringing the Canadian snow with us.

PS: Please ask to use any of the photo’s, and give credit if you do.

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