Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Scooter wrecks, gyros, and tufas

Russ tackling Priopos in the Grande Grotta. Russ's body makes Zeus look like Mickey Mouse

The annual Weiler summer vacation came early this year with our departure out of the country to the bankrupt capitol of Europe, Greece! Kalymnos is a small island on the very south-eastern border of the Greek islands near Turkey, and though has not been blessed with fertile soil or sandy beaches, does have some of the most wild, fantastic sport climbing in the world. Climbers flock from all over Cape Cod to experience "tufa" climbing, or giant stalactiteish rocks that form inside overhung caves. It truly is some of the best climbing one can imagine.  When you get tired, usually you can just sit down on a tufa for a no hands rests, or finagle some other rest using your head or back!
Trying to milk something with a back/head rest

The trip was organized and put together by James and Kara to who we owe pretty much everything, starting with convincing me to spend a bunch of money ($4000) on a trip with hotels and restaurants instead of a neo-air and ramen to planning and organizing and navigating through unknown terrain. Being extremely nervous myself about traveling abroad, I found it much less stressful traveling with others. We had eight in our group, Annie and I, James and Kara, Nate and Kim, and the two boyfriends, Ryan and Russ(not gay, just the only non-married couple) who we had only met a few times at our local gym prior to the trip. 2 weeks is a ton of time to cover in one blog post, and several folks(myself included) have mentioned how absurd pages and pages of pictures and information can be(ie old people slideshows) so I am going to keep this as brief as possible. Blog posts should be like eating cookie dough, extremely satisfying after one or two scoops, but after too much you never want to see it again.

Annie did a tremendous job taking photos with our camera as I was distracted with pinching tufas. Kim is a professional photographer, and Russ knows a thing or two about cameras, and as soon as I get some of their photos I will post them, but for now, you'll have to deal with Annie's non-photogenic specimen, mainly me.

Getting to Kalymnos requires a blood clotting 10 hour flight to Paris, then a 4 hour flight to Athens, then a 1 hour flight to the island of Kos, then a 30 minute ferry ride to Kalymnos. This ain't red rocks folks. I won't bore you with airport sheinanegains and painful layover jet lag comments, but they occurred.
James sacked out in the Paris airport. He was drooling.

We climbed at a number of different crags, the main one being the area behind our hotel called the Grande Grotta/Panorama area. It is a massive cave with huge tufas hanging all over. We spent 3 days there as there are probably 500 routes within a 30 min walk of our hotel. The best climbs we did were the 12a, 12b, and 11d of DNA, Ivy, and Trela respectively. Ridiculously cool overhanging jugfest tufas climbing. Not a crimp in sight! Swimming in the ocean and hotel pool finished off the days before eating Greek food by the ocean at small restaurants. The food was ok, but I think we all were sick of gyros by the end of the trip.

The spectacular Grande Grotta

James climbing superb 11c

On Sunday I took us to a cool cave. People were upset with me as we only had 2 headlamps

 We spent other days at the secret garden, ghost kitchen, deep water soloing, and Sikati Cave, all which require renting scooters to get to these distant crags. The scooters were fun but dangerous. James and I crashed both of ours within 5 minutes of acquiring them(luckily our wives convinced us to get insurance, smart!) Nate and Kim actually ate it quite hard on a sharp turn and got bad road rash. Nate didn't get insurance and had to fork out 55 euros($70) to fix his. Ryan and Russ went most of the trip with bragging rights, till the last day when Ryan rallied his scooter off a ramp onto the rental deck, catching air in the process and causing random noises to come from the vehicle after landing. No damage was done but we were happy to see the braggart get some of the scooter crash pain.
Self portrait scooter riding. My face looks weird because we are going at least 25 mph

The gang on the scooters

Ryan eating a gyro. He lived off these and gelato. I think he spent $50 on gelato.

Deep water soloing was a blast. The wall was only maybe 30 feet high, but that's high enough for us. Finally, the best crag we saved for last. A 40 minute hike through goat pastures lands you at Sikati Cave, a massive hole in the ground where an underground cavern has collapsed, leaving a spectacular climbing venue with forests of overhanging tufas. Everything is pretty hard in there(.12 and up) so we did our best despite the difficult ratings and being tired. Nevertheless, Morgan, a .12c we did, was the best climb of the trip. Overhanging, 3D tufa humping and straddling for a full 30m with a bolt missing halfway up to give it some flavor, was the classic of the trip. Ryan was the only one who sent, but we all enjoyed it thoroughly.

Nate loving the long, long, long 10a with a dramatic backdrop

Annie on Sparticus, 12c

The deep water solo cave is down left. Random tattered flag on a pole next to annie.

I fell shortly thereafter.

Standing on one tufa at the secret garden

Girl power

Celestial Kingdom. Sikati Cave(giant hole) and your own private beach

Morgan, 12c in Sikati. One my favorite pics. Nice job Annie!
Getting ready for the crux, sitting on a massive tufa

Sikati Beach

Sikati Cave

We spent one day in ghetto, graffiti stricken Athens doing the Acropolis tour which I was not impressed with, but hey, a little history never hurt anybody. (Greek riots however do) Overall we climbed somewhere in the range of 34-40 routes. I managed to onsight a bunch of 11's, a .12a, .12b, and got a .12c my 2nd go with two other .12c's a one hang. Didn't feel like projecting anything too much as there is just too much to climb!

Annie next to something old called the Parthenon

Tour guide Nate trying to get me interested. Not succeeding.
 I could go on and on with pretty funny stories of Ryan filming basically every taxi ride, or after every route saying it was the best route he'd ever done, or how he was going to marry a Greek woman, or Russ asking every waitress what he should get and her responding, "this is nice for you, nice for you", and James harrassing everyone about being late, but hopefully the pictures are a better story.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The art of butt glissading and black fly swatting

The view from the summit of Frary Peak

West slab season is upon us! For those unfamiliar with the west slabs, it is the 2000' west face of Mt. Olympus in SLC which appear vertical from afar, but are actually quite low angle and can be climbed at a very easy 5.4. The west slabs are spectacular because not many other places anywhere contain such a long sustained scramble on great rock, and only moments from the local Barbacoa for post race meals. (the Flatirons of Boulder obviously come to mind as a glorious exception)  I thought it appropriate to send Olympus as fast as possible from its two major routes(standard trail last week) before venturing to Greece later this week where the real Mt Olympus lies. (we will be nowhere near it unfortunately)
Mt Olympus, the slc version

The best way to do the west slabs of Olympus loop is broken into 5 sections:
1. Take good singletrack starting from top of Thousand Oaks drive on railroad ties up to Zeus Couloir.
2. Ascend Zeus to base of slabs.
3. Climb Slabs
4. Descend Apollo Couloir via out of control butt glissading
5. Swim/schwak/wade/thrash/fall down river then back over to Zeus and back to car via same singletrack.
While this itinerary does not gain the true north summit(which some claim is bad style) the whole purpose of this route is the slabs themselves, not the summit.

Jared Campbell(one of my heroes) claims to have the FKT on this linkup at 1:01. Blazing. My previous best time was 1:20 last year. The key to a fast CTC time on this one is to get the slabs as soon as snow clears them in the spring, usually mid May, and to maximize the snow in the couloirs for fast descent times.

I went up Friday to check it out, and managed a 1:17 CTC time. I thought I could do better. Without cheating too much(ie stashing a sled at the top of Apollo) I set out with Microspikes for the way up and ski gloves for the way down. Pete, Court, and Stevo joined me for my 2nd time trial, hoping for sub 1:10.

I just barely missed it at 1:10:05 despite pounding it as hard as I could the last bit. Pretty happy with that time. Steve and Court managed 1:21 and 1:23 and Pete missed the turnoff to Zeus so he pulled in at 1:49, all respectable considering none of them had previously done the route.

Here is a great video of said hero doing the route. I failed to get any pictures due to the fact I couldn't breath and needed my hands to prevent slamming in to rocks on the way down. 

Killian Jornet setting FKT on the Real Mt Olympus

 On another note, Annie and I headed out to Antelope Island to hopefully log some miles on the trails out there. We ran up Frary Peak, the high point of the island(running on flat trails is boring), but got eaten by horrible black gnat beasts, i.e. the stuff Moses cursed Pharoah with. It was nasty. In our eyes, ears, hair, neck, other places.. We bailed after 10 miles due to heat stroke and bug bites. Don't go to Antelope Island in May.

Great run/hike. Highly recommended

Annie hoofing it up the trail

Our destination in the distance

I like flowers

Where's a frog when you need it? Mosquitos got nothin on these guys.

"Take the freaking picture so we can get away from the bugs!" Summit pic

Hard to see, but two random girls in Too Too's were up getting a photo shoot. Random.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Beer on Mt Olympus with Steort

Twin Peaks from Beer Belly

Had an enjoyable weekend. Court and I soloed Steorts for his first time up it, where no one fell so that was successful. We then climbed Highlander, a 12a up BCC right off the road that felt good to send.

Court solo on the classic BCC 3 pitch 5.6 Steorts Ridge

Nearing the top after the spooky slab move

Annie and I originally had plans to get down south with the boys to run the Muley Twist, but the 6 hour car ride lowered our stoke. So we stuck around SLC. I headed up Saturday morning and managed to lower the FKT for our group record on the 7 mile, 4200' vert Olympus to 1:47 CTC. There was still snow on the upper section to the saddle, and the plethora of dogs, old people, and families hiking slowed me down a little, but I have confidence my time will stand for at least a few months. (court claims post bunnion, but I doubt it). I felt like I was redlining it the whole time and my quads now feel like mashed potatoes after kamikazing it back down, but that's what it takes. Not sure I could go faster without EPO. 1:13 up, :34 down. I will say pridefully it is extremely satisfying to pass people on the way up, and on the way down and they have barely gained 1/4 mile between your meetings.

Later that day, Annie and I hiked up to Beer Belly Buttress to taste some of the "best quartzite in the canyon". The quartzite was good, but frankly the ratio of loose talus/bushwack on the approach to quality rock was 15 to 1. Worst approach ever. If you are looking for a hike you will do in the bad place(hell) this is it. Don't bother going up there. Stay low in the canyon, on nice trails, with good rock. Having said all that about how bad the approach was, we did do possibly the best 5.8 quartzite crack I've ever done.My foot got gouged thoroughly in multiple places. My climbing shoes contain goblets of blood stains.

Beer Belly Buttress
Annie enjoying 5.8 jamming on the 160' Six Pack Crack
Talus, schwak, and bloody ankles