Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Creek

Battle of the Bulge

After last week's debacle involving a dearth of climbing due to Timbre's antics we were happy to be invited back by Court and Megan for another long weekend excursion to the Creek where multiple belayers/babysitters would ensure a more pleasant and productive experience for us. We piled in the van and enjoyed a fantastic 2 days of splitters at Way Rambo, Battle of the Bulge, and Blue Gramma. Highlights were the namesake routes at all those crags, plus The Cave Route, Layaway Plan, and The Fuzz. Routes we attempted but spit us off were Slice n Dice and Swedin Ringle. 5.12 at the Creek is pretty hard.

Court Sending Way Rambo. Dang .75's spit me off

Getting ready to pull around the roof on Layaway Plan

Slice N Dice. No one sent, but its a beauty of a line

More Slice N Dice

MegaBlox enjoying wide hands on Blue Sun

Hands hands baby

Court Taking a turn 

Chest Full of Kind, weird name, fun climb

Timbre wants to be like the cool kids

Nap time for 2/3 of the Weiler clan

Thursday, April 2, 2015

So Much Flat Running

Monument Valley is super cool

I quit my job on March 20 in hopes we could cram as much fun in 3 months as we could before PA school starts in the flatlands of Florida, so we immediately set out on a road trip. Our wishlist is long, but with a little kid we nicknamed Bean we had to try to structure our trips around non multipitch related endeavors(bummer) and mostly sport climbing with some trade off runs mixed in.

It feels like it has taken me a long long time to do the Zion Traverse, but I've only actually failed it once, which was a few years ago when we had the whole gang trying it over Thanksgiving. This is the only DNF that I can think of in my resume, even though its not really a race, but who cares. If you set out to do something you should do it. Its been on my hit list for awhile, and maybe its because I've run from the West Rim to the East Rim, and lots of other sections independently of each other that is feels so overdue, but regardless, day 1 of our journey was going to be the day I set out from point A, Kolob Canyon, and finished at point B, the East entrance, clocking in around 50 miles and 8500' vert.
The Zion Traverse

It felt great to run after taking the previous week off, and from the 6 am start through the morning I reveled in the solitude and beauty of Kolob, though I didn't really enjoy the 56 creek crossings in Hop Valley, but the sand wasn't Princess Bride quicksand bad like I had heard either. I met Annie at 8:45 at the HP TH where she was about to ditch some water since the Kolob Terrace Rd was under construction and if she wasn't out by 9 am she'd be stuck there all day. She said she just barely made it out. 14 miles down.

The run up to the West Rim was fine, and I hadn't seen anyone all day. I was moving well, and had hopes of finishing in under 10 hours so I could talk smack on Steve and Court who had finished in around 11:45 or so. My hip started to hurt after around 30 miles and I was moving very sluggish into the paved section, where Annie and Timbre were waiting for me at Scout Lookout along with thousands of other spring break folks. It had been 7 hours and that was about 3 hours longer than my poorly planned long runs had been leading up to this, but whatever.
My crew

I had 3 hours to go 10 miles to meet my goal, but the next 5 had the most climbing of the day. I slogged up to the junction with the Deertrap Trail, vertical done, and had adequate energy but my hips felt like there was sand in them. I walked 90% of the remaining five miles, which is all very runnable and even mostly downhill, which was frustrating, but that's life, finishing in 10:45, Overall a spectacular run and glad to have finally finished it. I realized afterwards my complete ineptitude at actually running. I'm used to hiking up steep mountains and knee bashing down, not this flat garbage. 8500' in 50 miles isn't much when you're used to that much in 20 miles.

I took the next couple days off  watching March Madness with Timbre in the condo while Annie did some running in St George, and we did some sport climbing at the Black and Tan and the Cathedral. Timbre did not do so well sitting by herself while we tried to climb, which was frustrating. She'd cry and eat rocks and try to crawl down steep slopes into holes that fell into the bowels of the earth. Just take a nap kid. We need a tag-a-long babysitter who works for free. Know anyone?
Speaking in Tongues 12b

Crazy cool crag, polished, and crappy for kids

We left St George on Sunday and made a brief stop to check out the Hurricave, though no climbing was done due to the Sabbath and complete unsafe child conditions, not to mention the lack of skill we possessed to climb there.
A reason to get better at climbing is so you can climb cool stuff like this! 

Monday the 3 of us enjoyed a really nice hike 3 miles down Buckskin Gulch out east of Kanab. Very cool slot canyon. After we got back to the car around 2 pm, I suggested one of us do the 21 mile loop down Buckskin and up the Paria, since it was a classic but required a shuttle. A 6 mile hike isn't going to cut it. That or we poach The Wave since permits are impossible to get, but our ethics edged out our desire to see it. Or we thought we'd get fined. We can't get fined again. Annie was tired so she let me do the run. Score!
The Wave. Not my picture. One guy at the TH said it was "like the antithesis of all that's wrong in the world". You mean like impossible permit systems to see a beautiful feature in nature? 

I was feeling OK after last weeks 50 miler, but a quick 7 mile run on the Zen trail 2 days before had awakened my old man hip pain, so I was a bit worried about another flat 20 miler. But you gotta take what opportunities God and your wife give you. I set off from the Wire Pass TH at 3 pm at a nice clip, barreling down the slot canyon passing the many folks doing an out and back like we had done earlier, hoping to finish by dark. Three miles in and it was just me and the canyon. It was fantastic.
Lunch time 

Really cool

Morning is the best time to catch some nice lighting. Or so I read. 

Literal singletrack in a slot canyon is what this is, and it didn't require signing up for some lame 50 miler like Antelope Canyon where you get 1 mile of slot and 49 miles of sand. Halfway down the slot the terrain got a bit wetter, and some wading was necessary. This got kind of frustrating as trying to keep a decent running rhythm was hard, but it made for unique and curious travel. I ran into some backpackers here who were curious if I knew how far to the confluence. I gave them the bad news they were likely only halfway as we hadn't reached the Middle Exit yet. One guy looked like I had stabbed him in the thigh he was so dejected.

3/4 of the way down is a short downclimb via some cord and cut rock steps, where some backpackers who had started the same time as us that morning were planning out their descent. They let me be the "guinny pig" and though not difficult it would be scary without the cord.

13 miles and 2.5 hours later I hit the confluence with the Paria. If I thought the Buckskin was wet, then the Paria is a waterpark. 6 miles of wading, running, then swimming, then running, repeat 78 times. I decided 6 miles in the Paria is plenty, and the full 50 miles to do the whole Paria to Lee's Ferry is no longer on the to-do list. Once you have 8 pounds of sand in your shoes that's when you need to call it, which takes like 1 mile. This is by far the best flat-land trail I've done. I enjoy more mountainous terrain for most of my trail running, but if I had to recommend one trail with no vert it would be this one.
The Paria 

Annie was waiting with some Chili at the White House Trailhead when I finally rolled in after 4 hours, and we enjoyed a nice sunset and then began the drive out to Monument Valley. Unfortunately, Mr. Eurovan wouldn't start after filling it up with gas in Page AZ, a problem we have had previously. We had to push it down the street as far as we could and sleep on a fairly bright and busy street that night. Not ideal.
If they ever open the Totem Pole for climbing, I'll start practicing my aid 

Luckily the van started up the next morning as expected and we talked ourselves out of taking it to a mechanic since its reliable once it starts again. Monument Valley was cool, but $20 and no climbing or hiking possibilities make this a one and done visit. I've also had my share of Navajo jewelry stands for the next lifetime.
The Creek was next on our list, and we had the same problem with the van in Monticello, but it fired up after only an hour of waiting. Very convenient.
VW ad worthy? Maybe they'll fix our problems if it makes it into a magazine

We climbed at the Optimator Wall, and Timbre was a monster. If we were giving out citizenship report cards at the crag than she got a D-. Everytime we put her down she would immediately scream bloody murder. Made all the climbs at least a letter grade harder due to lack of confidence in what your belayer was doing to calm the child vs watching you climb. We managed 3 good ones, which is a win in my book though this would definitely count as a failure if it were a dudes trip.
This picture does not represent what Timbre was doing 99% of the day. Norwegian chick on Annanuki 5.11 

Today we hiked up to Way Rambo but the wind was atrocious. Annie's list of least favorite things are as follows:
-Timbre crying
-cold wind blowing sand in Timbre's eyes, making her cry.

Needless to say we hiked down without climbing. Failure? Its the way it is with kids. I'm hoping things will improve, though I'm not sure how. Benadryl?

A great trip, hopefully more fun coming soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Zeus gave Moses a Charlie Horse

Aphrodite, Zeus, the Ark, Moses, Thracian Mare(left to right)

I've made several trips down to Canyonlands now, and every time I am still amazed at the remoteness and beauty of the landscape. Whether is rafting Cataract Canyon or biking the white rim, every aspect is stunning. While hoards of folks were out jeeping, road biking, mountain biking, and roadside cragging around the adventure mecca that is Moab, Steve and and I never saw more than a few folks down in the barren but beautiful Canyonlands. Sure Castleton and Ancient Art are desert tower classics, but I'm not interested in waiting in line. I can do that at Disneyland. The classics of Taylor Canyon and the surrounding area have some of the best climbing I've done, and we had them all to ourselves.

Steve and I have very supportive wives, and with 3 kids between us they were gracious enough to let us go play by ourselves over a long weekend. This trip kicks off the last week of work before I quit my job for the next few months before PA school starts in July. We set off in the blue 4-runner around 7pm, and arrived below the mineral bottom switchbacks around 11 pm, threw out the bags, and enjoyed a miraculous star gazing night well outside the park boundary and potential camping fines.
Zeus from below Dunn route. Sisyphus ascends the obvious corner(squeeze)

Friday morning our first priority after chocolate muffins was Zeus, a 300' tower up Taylor Canyon. Its right next to Moses, which I had summited before, so I knew the logistics. Sisyphus is the route, and it has 3 5.11 pitches to its summit, including one that is R rated. Steve manned up and took the first pitch, and did quite well through the insecure stemming section with old desert hardware for gear. He took a whipper on a piton, building his confidence in the security of the mank, and with smart use of the piton as a foothold managed to finish the pitch. I attempted to follow it clean but alas, the piton received a 2nd climbing shoe imprint. One pitch down.
Steve in the thin of things on pitch 1

I led pitch 2, which included mostly finger crack and then a tips lieback which got french freed after desperation set in. The squeeze chimney made me dust off my very rusty wide technique, and after some futzing around right side/left side in, I thrutched up to the belay. Gotta love the squeezes.

Fingers off the belay. This was the easy part

Pitch 3 was the 5.11 R pitch. The first 3/4 is amazing fingers with great gear, and the R part turned out to be a sporty boulder problem, which suited me much better than the 5.11 insecure stemming of pitch 1. The gear was a little low to avoid decking if I fell, but after resting and scoping it the move went off without a hitch and I was on top. Steve struggled a bit, but managed eventually and the raps off the old summit anchor went smooth.
Steve's face says the 5.11 R move is hard. 

Classic desert rap anchor

We ate lunch and then headed over to Moses to do the Dunn route. I had done the ultra-classic Primrose with Annie back in 2011, so a different route sounded fun. Steve led a shorter 5.9 OW pitch off the deck that was easier than it looked due to face holds. My camera wouldn't turn on for awhile so I failed to acquire any pictures.

I took pitches 2-3, which was a  Burger King whopper of a linked 60m pitch, which just kept going and going, but allowed for great belay ledges. My triple cam rack was gone when I arrived at the belay, but it was by far one of the best pitches I've done. Lots of well protected 5.8-5.9 climbing. Nothing stressful, tons of variety, just good fun, though Steve said my last two pieces were garbage. I admit a nut in a parallel crack usually isn't ideal. Mental pro is better than none.

Pitch 4 is the crux 5.11 fist pitch. Hand crack gets to you a #4 camalot roof, then mostly fists and arm bars for another slightly overhanging 40 feet. Way harder than any 5.11 sport pitch at the gym where its just your finger tips that hurt. My whole body hurt after this one. My skills were far from adequate, and despite hundreds of watts and precious skin expended from my frail boney body, I managed to only move half a body length at a time before exhaustion set it, so much hangdogging ensued. Sometime later than hoped I arrived at the belay cave. Steve seemed to have similar issues as me, but after much effort got up. "Take!" and "tight!" echoed many times throughout the empty canyon. Steve had some weird severe cramping in his abs and had to lie down and arch his back in the small cramped cave to appease the pain. It abated in time for the hole squeeze.
Attempting to stem to relieve pain in my forearms

Pitch 5 was a short vertical squirm through a tiny hole, but our caving experience gave us proficiency to dispatch this one without much effort. 2 easy pitches led to the top.
Go steve go! 

When the wifer and I did Moses back in 2011. It was windy this time too. 

Steve stoked to be on top of Moses. The Pocatello 50 arm sleeves look dirty for some reason

Horrible hanging belays but easy pulls led us down Pale Fire and to our warm Dr Pepper. Fantastic day in the desert.

Another night under the stars and a whole lot of condensation brought us to Saturday. Charlie Horse Needle was up next. Steve got the wide 5.10 fist pitch this time, and did well despite his soreness from the previous day's activities. He managed to bypass the huge belay ledge despite my apparently unclear directions, but set up a fine belay slightly higher.
Charlie Horse is the highest tower of the 3 spires

Splitter fists! I'd try the 5.12 finger crack next time

I did 5.10 fingers with stemming into yet, another squeeze chimney, and flopped onto the belay ledge after a much shorter time than Zeus' squeeze took me, though I still needed some proactive self talk to get started.
splitter fingers before the squeeze

Exiting the squeeze 

The 5.11c pitch was last, which again got french freed through the initial .5 camalot acute corner flare(say what?) then a beautiful long red camalot section. A short wide section created some anticipated stress from below, but wasn't too bad, then a final chimney to the top! 3rd tower of the trip.
Thin hands master enjoying the red camalots 

Bomber rock on the summit

After rappelling safely we headed back to the car and up to Island in the Sky. We were both pretty tired and sore from climbing, but wanted to take advantage of the remaining afternoon. We finished the trip off by doing a fantastic run from the mesa down to the White Rim road via Lathrop Canyon, around 12 miles and 3k' vert in 2.5 hours. The NPS sign said it was 5 miles from Island in the Sky to the White Rim, but the sign at the White Rim indicated it was 6.8 miles back to the road. The guy making the signs must have been watching March Madness while engraving. Gorgeous and almost no one on the trail. The 24 mile full escapade down to the river and back will have to be done another time.
Fantastic views to the East side of Canyonlands

Similar only color

Really cool singletrack ridge running 

I didn't have compression shorts or a tech shirt, which resulted in horrific inner thigh and back blisters due to chaffing, but it was worth it. Steve didn't have a water bottle or a pack, so he just ran with his dr pepper bottle sans Bottleband. Where is Court and Nick when you need them? Oh yea, Atlantic City.

The trip couldn't just end peacefully with delicious Arby's curly fries, as Steve had to pick up a scary hitchhiker in the dark just outside of Price("he had a pack on, I though he was an ultrarunner!"). I had already talked him out of a previous opportunity at Crescent Junction, so I guess he needed his good turn done for the day. "D.C." had a rich history of being in jail, being medically dead in the hospital, brain damage, prior residences in 2/3 of all the US states, and apparently had just escaped from his mental institution. Curse you generous and extroverted Steve! Way more dangerous than desert towers. Luckily we dropped him off in Spanish Fork unscathed(us, not him), though we did a quick check of our belongings after he left.

This lead to a lukewarm discussion about how Steve was too friendly and needed to be more like me, the antisocial introvert who thinks giving out Oreos to strangers at the crag is a bit weird. Like most of our opinionated social conversations, we agreed to disagree.

Another great trip!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cindy Crawford is my Guardian Angel

South Guardian Angel

Contrary to my own beliefs and likely the beliefs of all those who enter Zion National Park, many if not most of the giant walls and peaks that tower above the Virgin River can be summitted by less than technical means, i.e you don't have to own a helicopter or be a super hard free or aid climber to access a lot of what appears to be untouchable terrain. All it takes is some googling, astute route finding skills, moderate fitness, a distaste for directness, and a love of slickrock scrambling and manzanita thrashing to get to some pretty dang remote and seemingly improbable locations. We were lucky enough to experience two new such adventures this past weekend.

With the addition of little Timbre to our family, hiking has become one of the easiest and best activities we can pursue together. We may have pushed the envelope of what would be considered normal "hiking" with a 7 month old child in a backpack, but who wants to hike Angel's Landing for the 15th time? While thousands of folks summited the place where the angels land, we were off all alone with the actual angels. 

Our first objective was South Guardian Angel, a peak on the Kolob Terrace side of Zion, separated from North Guardian Angel and the Northgate Peaks trail by the uber classic must do canyoneering route, the Left Fork, aka the Subway. 

superb if not overly specific route beta:

If you know anything about canyoneering, generally the premise is you access the canyon from the top, and emerge out the bottom, and rarely is there an escape from its bowels anywhere in between due to hundred or thousand foot walls on all sides. So if a slot canyon separates you and your objective peak, chances are you'll have to find another way around, which may or may not exist. Luckily for us, some creative and ingenious pioneer created a fantastic and suprisingly direct route that descends into the Subway and back out the other side with nothing more than a short 4th class section. No ropes required! Really cool. The route itself is almost as intriguing as the peak. 

Pete, Court and Steve hadn't done any of the other peaks in the Wildcat Trailhead vicinity so they opted for the longer, 5 peak linkup while the Weiler clan departed for SGA, with hopes of meeting up at some point. We had some minor trouble finding the correct path into the Subway, but inevitably found it, though it took quite a bit longer than expected. Joe's directions state that there are many cairns that leads you down, but we failed to find very many on either the up or down journeys. The boys met up with us just as we entered the canyon proper, having summited 3 peaks already(they did not have a kid) and we all fought our way up the escape gully together. An hour later we found ourselves on the summit after some cross country thrashing and slickrock calf burners. Very cool summit.
Me and Timbre in the Subway

View of North Guardian from SGA

The girls on top
The entrance and exit to the Subway is definitely "off trail". Heck the whole route is. 

The boys took off to bag the 5th peak while we embarked on the identical return slog back. Timbre had been doing ok for most of the day, despite being whipped from time to time by sharp branches that I did a poor job of avoiding. We had to employ what we are now calling a "Timbre Toss" on the 4th class section descending back into the Subway, which is essentially handing Timbre down a short obstacle for fear of slipping and killing the child while downclimbing. This is just good parenting. 
Riding the log

It was a long day but we arrived back at the van 8 hours after departing, 15 miles, 4k', and a bunch of scratches later. Annie and I alone no doubt could have done it in half the time and it would have been way less stressful, as anything is a little more committing with a child, but we managed. 

Sunday after the most crowded sacrament meeting I've ever attended, we went out and found the once-secret-but-now-the-locals-don't-care Utah hills crag, Sunset Alley. Looks fun. 

Monday we set out with Pete and Court to find Crawford Arch, a very subtle but easily seen formation( if you know where to look) high on Bridge Mountain. Despite being visible from the visitor center and within 1 mile of the tunnel road, it ironically takes either a 10 pitch 5.10 or a 10 mile, 4k' totally indirect scrambling route to access it. Court had done the route before, so we recruited him to guide us which was nice of him considering the ample opportunity Zion holds for non-repeatable adventures. Whoever discovered this route to the arch is even more ingenious than the SGA dude. 

More great beta:

The author's description starts off by saying, "this is NOT a hike for the entire family!". Well you don't know our family Joe. We started from the tunnel around 9 am and took our first break down near the entrance to Hepworth wash after Annie had an unfortunate accident jumping off a log into the sand with her back extended, causing acute sharp pain in her back.

Navigating down the canyon to Hepworth Wash
We continued on despite her discomfort(tough mother) and made a slight mistake picking the wrong notch(the correct one is the furthest left) to ascend but corrected without too much delay. This next part of the hike is the craziest. We descended down a steep brushy gully towards the tunnel road, using our full arsenal of Timbre Toss skills, then wrapped around on a ledge to a 5.6 chimney.  The chimney requires the only climbing skills of the outing and allows access to a flat saddle of sorts, then some mild loose sand traversing lands you improbably at the arch.Timbre didn't make it up the chimney, so we took turns watching her while the others went up and saw the arch. The chimney was fun and easy with a fixed handline, and we all escaped without injury. The return trip went well, with only minor Timbre face whippings until a serious one pushed her over the limit, so we took her out of the backpack and carried her the rest of the way. 
5.6 chimney

Under the arch

Looking down towards the visitor center

Court doing what Arches National park won't let you do

This was a 10 mile, 3800' vert adventure that took us about 8 hours. 

We aren't sure if our current justification of what is considered "hiking" in the form of Zion peakbagging with Timbre will increase or decrease the likelihood of her enjoying future outings as she gets older. Maybe we'll tell her she doesn't have a choice. 

The next question we face is whether we can convince ourselves an easy slot canyon like Orderville isn't considered child abuse.