Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Goat Man Cometh

2011 race season is knocking on the door and I'm getting pretty amped. Which is pretty dope since I haven't been amped proper for a race season in a few years. I think it's a combination of a fresh scene, fresh scenery, new people and an excuse to keep racing sport class.

I am really relishing in the happenstance that has become my racing as of recent. It seems that living up high and riding only marginally is much better training for the 3/4 level than living down low and training hard. Breathing easy and never being out of contention of a top 10 when competing with all of the Phoenix crew has been great so I am very stoked to start racing seriously this season...err as seriously as Slater gets.

For those out of the loop the Fisher is long gone. It was my most loyal companion the last 4 years and served me very well. It proved that it could rail corners and blow freewheels with aplomb, it saw too many hard miles for any bike with such little maintenance given to it yet still refused to crack a downtube like the rest of her production run sisters.

AA at Big Poppi ordered me up a XTC 29er 1 to race on this season and I am beyond excited. The XT/SLX 30spd group will be beyond the nicest component group I have ever bought and the Fox fork felt beastly the last few times I have demoed one so I have very high hopes that this bike will blow me away and show me that piloting one of the first production design 29ers is not an ideal way to operate in 2011.

Murdered out

Back to the race season. Apparently the big race scene starts here in January in PHX and the series just continues down there til it gets hot and then snakes it's way back up into the mountains chasing the cooler temps til the summertime. So that's pretty cool, something like 11 races total. I've been laying down hard road miles since I ordered the Giant in an attempt to come back into form enough to justify this bike and a race entry fee.

It's working pretty well though. I went and rode mountain bikes for the first time in a month last weekend, it was mid 70s and sunny and everything went great. I borrowed Johnny G's old Cannondale hardtail for the ride. It was a sketchy bike down there to say the least. The front shock was blown, I haven't been on a little wheeled race bike since 2006 and I felt like I was falling over the front wheel the entire time. I rode with all of the local shop rats, a few of my fellow backcountry outfitters and the local big shot tri-coach and... I didn't get dropped, didn't hurt too bad, and was right there at the front on the pavement group sprint back to the cars (I have no idea what we were sprinting for but it was still fun to mix it up).

1996 called, it wants it's sketchy excuse for a mountain bike back

Everyone else was either on a 29er with a 100mm fork or a 5" fs beast, I looked very out of place on this bike trying to bomb sketch desert downhills with these guys. But I lived to tell the tale, rode some gnar brah super secret "locals only" trail and got to watch 12ish guys absolutely shred in the desert.

So here's to the race season, the desert, sketchy riding and borrowed bikes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Race Flyer

The Masses: "Slater, all of your stories are about climbing and we don't understand what you are talking about anymore."

Slater: "Hold on. I'll go race a bike, drink a bunch of cheap beer and recant my tales amongst the internets."

I've wanted to tell this story for a while, I've had a few chances that seemed fair enough. But this one seems the most opportune for myself. I want a cautionary warning, this is long. This is 10 years worth of tales wrapped into a blog post. It might be worth reading, it might not be. But if you've been reading the climbing non-sense leading up to this you can probably hang on for a minute.

Last weekend marked my 10th season racing cyclocross bikes. First off I would like a moment of recognition for my former neighbor Steve Songer for indelibly ruining this sport by handing his 12 year old neighbor a race flyer and teaching him how to dismount on the 2000 nationals cross course. He might have thought he was doing the sport good back then by distracting a 12 year old from building 6 foot tall dirt jumps behind his house (that were probably ruining his view of the park) and putting that kid in spandex, but little did he know that kid would turn into me.

This tale starts back farther than I care to admit for as slow as I am. But I was indoctrinated into the sport of cyclocross in September of 2000. I had been racing mountain bikes for a season and did well as a junior, I can remember climbing the ski hill at Snow Creek and getting lapped by Steve Tilford when he was still humble enough to race local mtb events. But I didn't really know what I wanted to do with the sport. I loved BMX racing, I loved the pain of MTB racing and I didn't know anything about road bikes besides the fact that the dude who lived 2 houses down had a dope Litespeed and Lance Armstrong had just finished dominating his 2nd tour.

Well that dude who lived 2 houses down from me handed me a race flyer after I started hanging out in his driveway talking bikes with him. Come October I had somewhat learned about cyclocross through the internets and Steve. This is how my first race went...

12 year old me: I would like to enter the juniors race
Jeremy Haynes: Well I'm a pompous asshole, lemme give you shit for five minutes about how you don't have hair on your legs so you don't need to shave yet and then we can fill out an entry form
12 year old me: ok....
Jeremy: Holy shit you have a lot of hair on your legs (I still think Jer might be gay for commenting on a 12 year old's leg hair)

Needless to say that race got me hooked. It was 40 degrees out and I was wearing my only pair of cycling shorts coupled with a long sleeve KU cycling Tshirt. I finished right behind Theresa Jarsemkoski on her brand new white and red Redline. I could barely clip back into my Nashbar brand clipless pedals and my 30lb Fuji was agonizing to lift over the barriers. Jeremy Haynes screamed encouragement like I had never heard before from the sidelines, donned in his Bontrager sweater and goofy hat, "eye of the tiger baby."

Less than a month later I was registered for cx nationals, the first held in KC. It was a bust for me but the experience of the race was beyond good. It was cold, an ice-storm had left the course that I had ridden no less than 50 times un-rideable and it made 2008 nationals look like a cakewalk as far as I'm concerned.

That next season we transformed LBCR to the Museum Cycling Team, I had jerseys for both. I got to watch Steve and everything else I liked about that team disappear to different teams, they decided to go hit up KCBC and then form Team X/360. I watched it happen and as an aspiring junior I knew I wasn't going many places without a piggyback. I can still remember the next season. I assume teams were starting to talk about re-organization, and if not than certain people just did great things for me.

I can remember the phone ringing while I was at the kitchen table doing god knows what as a 13 year old and I can remember my mom asking me to come take the phone from her. But whatever happened after that I have no idea. Jeremy Haynes had called my house and wanted to know if I wanted to race for the new Boulevard/Midwest Cyclery Team. As a kid I felt about as pro as it could get. He wanted my kit sizes and commitments, and I was as down as it could get.

The next few years I sandbagged it out. I was a 5'11 14 year old and just kept entering junior races and taking the wins (as long as they started around the same time as the C race). I was pretty damn good at racing against the Men's C and collecting a prize wherever I ended up... not gonna lie it was normally pretty well.

But eventually Dean Parker showed up with a neighbor kid of his own... Chris Hall. And that kid started battling right quick. We all know how that story ends up. Cat 1 license v Cat 4 license...circa now.

I caught a case of the "fumes" pretty hard around the same time that he showed up. The car fumes of things that sprint faster than 28mph and the perfumes that are prettier than a new Cannondale. I still showed up for races once in a while, I never did well but I was always stoked to come out early and help pound stakes. That's what cross was built on, or what I always thought it was built on. Pound stakes, shake the homeless man off the bench, race before the cops show up.

10 years later and you get a founding father of god knows what kind of Bad Goat cross team that resembles the old Midwest/Boulevard crew but with an entire team less than 29 years old and enough CO2 generated kegs to power an atom bomb (is that what those run on...), race promoter, series organizer and general team of miscreants.

I always thought this story was worth sharing since there aren't that many kids who came up in the true hay day of KC cross racing. I could tell you about last weekend's race, but it wasn't more than another round of top tens, or the last 5.12 but this is better in my opinion.

So here's to the dudes who made the KC cross scene rain hard... at least for me. Cheers, Steve and Jeremy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Story of the Weekend

My weekend was overall un-eventful (continue reading if you will). But I have a story that makes me chuckle, bluegrass and wine. So let the tales regale your eye parts.

Sunday was my only day off from work last week so John, Matt and I went to the pit for a day of sport craggin. We had a pretty darn good day. I warmed up on a solid 5.10d, retrieved the leftover anchor via a 5.11C direct next to said previous route and then watched John Boy try and flail up the 5.9 pocket pull Popeye. John never got to the top and we had to lower him about 10 feet from the anchors. I told both Matt and John prior to the route that I had no desire to climb the damn thing again so one of them would have to finish it and get the gear back. Well Matt cleaned it up after John and came on back to the dirt.

Here's where the gettin' gets good. It was a well known fact from the minute that we got into the car that I would be laying down a fatty onsight attempt on True Value, which is a stellar 5.11a that is very overhung and not my kind of climbing style at the moment. But for some reason after John Boy got lowered off his 5.9 bail he thought that he should just walk back to the car.... with all of my quickdraws hanging off of him. Matt and I thought that he was taking a piss or petting a skink or whatever the hell he does in the woods. So we continued to flake the rope and tie in, sure that he would show back up.

Well he did show back up, around bolt number 5 of this 9 bolt route. I have 6 draws to start the climb, it required 9. I decided that I could just make 2 alpine draws out of the webbing and lockers in my pack and run out the last bolt to the top.

Here's why it sucks (but is still funny) while I was building this draw out of lockers, I only remembered to construct said lockers but not unlock them. The crux move on this route is about 10 feet above the last bolt, and if you count the roof as vertical feet it would have been a solid 15 feet to the last bolt (30 foot fall before rope stretch). So I hit the crux and am hanging on a 3 finger sidepull with maybe one toe solid on the roof bottom, I pull the rope to clip and when I go to clip absolutely nothing happens because the gate will not come undone. I am at my limit and I start screaming at Matt "TAKE, TAKE, TAKE!" as I start running down the wall in what I am sure will be an ankle breaker.

I live through the ordeal and have to pull the crux 3 times. Once as the original clip, once to retrieve the original and once to place a new unlocked draw. All the while John Boy shows up smiling halfway through the crux and offers to "throw my draws up to me." It was by far the most strenuous .11a of my life and I am beyond frustrated that I didn't onsight, but it will still fall clean. Hopefully in the next week.

So here's to your weekly wine rant, walking off with my g*darn gear and making due with whatever is left in the pack.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Mountain Life Proper

I've been waiting a while for a week like the past, one that really embodies the spirit of the mountain. A stellar realization of what one can truly accomplish and be at elevation if you will, and I think the last week finally made the good stuff rain hard. Not to downplay the epic tales of mountaindom that have precluded this, but they really can't touch what has been happening these last 7 days. So sit back, crack a cold one and enjoy the yarns that I intend to spin.

So I went to work at Babbitt's Backcountry last week. It's the "Sunflower" of Flagstaff minus the bikes. I'm back to doing what I love and working with like minded pirates. Mind you it's no career but careers seldom come with this many accounts to pro-deal. So I can deal for now.

Over the weekend I worked the three day long Flagstaff bluegrass festival "Pickin' in the Pines" at my coffee shops vendor booth. It was a solid 12 hour day everyday. And by solid 12 hour day I mean I hung out, sold food, drank a lot on the job, and got to party down in the outdoor amphitheatre proper when the good music was playing. I raged to Nolan McKelvey with my white boy dancing and led a charge up to the stage for some dancing with the Seldom Scene. Every night that I left the amphitheatre I wandered back downtown to find out what band was playing a side gig where and explore the bluegrass bar scene. Not a lot of sleep but soooo good.

Regardless of the whole sleep situation I took Monday and Tuesday off to go climbing in Paradise Forks. I got hooked up with this old school trad climber named Stan and I was beyond stoked to start trad-climbing again. Paradise Forks is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen and the whole canyon was empty except for some Europeans who had traveled specifically to climb the stellar hand-cracks. Nobody around Flagstaff trad-climbs and it's kind of an anomile. This town is surrounded by old school trad areas that are beyond amazing, but all the kids my age want nothing to do with anything that isn't 5.13 sport climbing or V8 bouldering... or approaches longer than 5 minutes.

I'm not much of a crack climber, and by not much I mean I have no crack climbing form. I was desperate for a micro-crimp or an edge to pull on but all these cracks had to offer was jams upon jams. It was described by everyone as "Indian Creek without proper ratings." You see back in the day the rating system stopped at 5.9. So anything that was hard was just called 5.9+... and we climbed a lot of 5.9+. I spent a solid two days after that excursion not being able to lift my hands above shoulder height, my feet were bloody from attempting to jam my tiny sport shoes sideways into cracks and I was mentally exhausted. But G-Dang I had more fun craggin' at the Forks than I have had since I started climbing. I know where my future in this sport is and it lies in tiny finger cracks and TCU's.

Our Austrian climbing associate sending hard on the stellar Paradise Forks hand cracks.

So that's how you live the mountain life. You shuck and jive as a North Face shill, sling the lattes at bluegrass festivals, party hard with the band whence the festival comes to a stop, and crag at the most scenic old school canyon in the southwest. Now you'll have to excuse me, I have to go sort gear for another day of redpointing 5.11 at Jack's Canyon.

So here's to livin' the life proper.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Climbing Bum's Tales

Who wants to know about the last week of my life? Because I want to tell you about it.

So the last word from me was that I was jobless and restless. So I took my restless nature and went climbing. Here's the rundown (just of the fun things, not the endless job hunt).

I hit the pit headfirst on Wednesday with a climbing fervor reserved for the young and frustrated. I got a handful of onsights and killed a project of mine with aplomb. It was a good day. I won't go on since everyone has already heard about the pit.
Thursday and Friday I got out on the bike hard. Rode myself into the ground both on the road and mountain respectively but nothing too epic to report besides I rode fast and hard and all day.

View from the anchors at Slide Rock Canyon

Saturday: I heard tell of some bolted rock down in Sedona at Slide Rock state park. So I dragged Matt out to check it out. We had little info besides, "bolted rock, up on the hill, above the creek." But oh my goodness, once we found the rock it was good. The lines were bold, 90 foot sandstone overlooking a 400 foot drop into a canyon, spires coming out of the side of the desert floor and more exposure than I have seen in a while. It was a true day of onsight climbing. We literally had no idea what any of the climbs went at, they all felt 5.10ish (but everything feels 5.10ish to me since I could honestly care less what a rock goes at). All of the climbs went clean and all of them were absolutely gorgeous. It was my first visit south to Sedona and I can see why it is such a tourist trap, it is literally one of the most gorgeous towns I have ever seen in my life. Everyone should make a pilgrimage just to see this tiny mountain town, that good...

True onsights go without beta, I don't care what the rest of the sport climbers say.

Saturday night I raged too hard with John boy so I'll skip Sunday altogether. But Monday I met up with some kids from Phoenix down at Jack's Canyon to climb. Jack's is about 30 miles south of Winslow, of Eagles fame, and is a sport climber resort. Hundreds of bolted lines in a pretty small canyon to tear up. It just so happened that my partner for the day was just beginning to push into 5.13s, while I myself had never even seen anyone climb 5.13. We spent the morning with me projecting 5.12 and him cleaning up whatever wouldn't go for me. It was a damn hard day on the rock and it felt sooo good to start climbing at or beyond my limit again. We climbed for a total of 10 hours and 12 routes, all were good, most went clean, life was good.

Tuesday I got a call from that job that I thought I lost/quit. They wanted me to come work for the day. I'm broke so I said "sure why not." Well, 1 day turned into 2 days turned into me working their booth at the local bluegrass festival all weekend. Add onto that and the local downtown gear dispensery called to hire me this morning. So I went from jobless climbing bum to double job/52 hr a week working employed person in less than 24 hours. I guess it cuts into the freewheeling climbing bum life that I was so fond of but at least I can pay some bills this month.

So here's to the life, making the dollas rain when you need it and big money sendin'

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Bundy Wedding Weekend

Early wake up call Friday morning as I packed the rest of my belongings and headed the 1.5 miles to the Flagstaff airport to shuttle a rickety old jet to the Phoenix airport for a rather eventful wedding weekend back in the old KS. I'm a rather inept airport patron and was worried that I would get utterly lost once descending upon PHX. But everything went off without a hitch and I was ahead of schedule arriving at MCI. There was a lovely young Neta awaiting me at the gate who rushed me straight off to Topeka so I could obtain a tux and do some damage to ol' T-Town.

After the tux was obtained I donned my classy wedding rehearsal getup of jeans, flip-flops and polo only to become the most under dressed rehearsal attendee. Felt a bit awkward until we got to the dinner and began drinking copious amounts of Blind Tiger's delicious American Pale. From then on the party raged in preparation for the next days festivities.

I won the game of "who knows Bundy and Kristen the best." Partly from my own knowledge
and partly because Kelsey screamed out all of her answers.

Wedding day: I awoke and scrambled downstairs only to find a car full of waiting groomsmen and their groom who apparently rebounded faster than me... or were just more used to an early wake up call than me. Regardless they wanted to get hiking and I volunteered to be the guide for the morning at the Topeka Governer's Mansion Trails. I might add that I volunteered my services as guide the night before while imbibing copiously only because the proposed morning destination of Perry Lake sounded utterly miserable to drive out to. I have no business guiding at or even riding this clusterfrag of trails by myself seeing as I have only ridden there twice. But as a verbose young outdoorsman will tell anyone after a few, "sure I can get us there and back." Regardless, we got back somehow and all was good.

That afternoon was a blur of business. I showed up to meet everyone for pictures missing my studs and suspenders and wearing the wrong shoes. Fixed the aforementioned problems and started bombing through wedding procedures. Once I stepped onto the stage (or whatever they call the thing at the front of a church...alter?) the proceeding was a blur. Kristen and Bundy were there and I could look out into the crowd and see every one of my best friends placed in the back where those damn miscreants belong. The whole thing went off without a hitch, Kristen looked absolutely enamored with her groom and although I couldn't see Mr. Bundy's face from my top-step I'm sure the emotion was the same. Kelsey Miller Fink was an amazing better half of my march out of the church and then things got wild.

We had fun and looked damn good.

Reception: My boat of flatland pirates were ready to rage. I got announced like royalty to the reception hall and took my place at the head table. After nabbing a quick scotch and heading back to the table with beer in hand (making a quick stop to adorn Neta with girly red booze) the feast was presented upon us. I leaned over to the dj and said "classy, jazz, Dean Martin, make it rain" and so was done. After dinner was done I made quick rounds and went to meet my table of fellow friends. We quickly turned the 8 person table into a 20 person, and mind you they happened to pick the table closest to the open bar. After things got wild and we danced and partied and danced some more we somehow ended up just being a large group of people standing next to the open bar for the rest of the night. We don't need a full bar, just a man with a stand and we can pretend.

Sunday: I somehow managed to make it downstairs in time to hand my tux off to Kristen's parents, gave the new Bundy family a quick hug and started shoving everything I owned into a bag so Neta and I could check out in time.

As I was driving home that morning I received a text from my boss at the coffee shop. It said "Your schedule has changed, call me as soon as you can." I procrastinated a while since I had to go see my parents and still was in no shape to talk to an employer of mine. Eventually I called him back and received some pretty lame news. Apparently the coffeeshop/restaurant was no longer serving dinner and they were cutting hours. By the time I called him back he had already laid off two cooks, a barista and slashed everyone's hours in half. He sounded frazzled and mystified how they were losing money and obviously felt bad. Half of me was prepared for it, but the other half wanted to scream and yell at him for his poor business model of serving lobster tail in a coffee shop but only between the hours of 4pm and 8pm... you didn't realize you were bleeding money sooner? Because we all did.

Regardless I had been thinking about this moment a lot lately, and wasn't really heartbroken and almost felt relieved. When he told me that he could probably work me 10-15 hours that week I chuckled over the phone, thanked him and then told him that I would only be coming into work that week to be collecting my check. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was foolishness, maybe it was just plain naivety but I didn't feel the need to work for a business who didn't have the foresight to give employees more than 12 hours notice that they would lose their income.

Regardless I went in today to collect my check and ex boss-man started talking at me just as much as he normally did. I listened for a minute but didn't let him finish his ramblings for once, just politely cut him off and said "Thank you for the job. I have a college degree and this awesome resume to go pass around." Shook his hand and went home and hit the job trail. I'm rather resolute to not get back in the coffee business right now, I'm rather sure I could land another coffee shop gig tomorrow but I have also been thinking a lot lately that working in a coffee shop after graduating college with nothing but coffee shop experience out of my 20s is only going to pigeon hole me into a field that has no income or long term stability.

Regardless I had an awesome weekend seeing two of the greatest people I have ever known get hitched. Followed by a hard realization that I am on the hunt for a real career and a life. Not just a job and a lot of playing. I foresee a lot of PBR and grilled cheese in this future job hunt...

So here's to celebrating two of my favorite people, my other favorite people who celebrated with me, cheap beer and hard roads.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Holes, Ska and Summits

It was a clear and sunny Wednesday morning and I had made big plans to summit Arizona's roof with Senor Giles. I awoke with a dry mouth and a dull ache from the Tuesday night fiesta that comes with the college kids moving back into town only to find a sketchy roommate who bailed on an epic to go play bikes with some new roadie companion... can't hate on a man for wanting new friends but give a fool some warning.

Regardless I hit Matt's phone and said "Pit, today is the day 5.12 onsight." He said cool, packed his gear and called me back 15 minutes later. "Uhh, my truck has a broken out window. I can't climb." I didn't understand the correlation between the two. I climb when I'm frustrated, ecstatic or ambivalent... but he needed to console his truck or something so he bailed and left me with my day off to ponder what the bejeezus I can do with my day off work flying solo.

As I was driving aimlessly around town I came across the city limits. There was a sign that said "Grand Canyon: North Rim 124 miles." I took a quick inventory of the party wagon (gas, water, phone, boots, ipod). Cranked the Johnny Cash and blazed a trail down old Route 66 to witness the grandness of this hole for myself. I blew past the national park (by accident not purpose) and continued to the north rim proper, what awaited me was a giant desert filled with nothing and a big hole in the middle. Not a soul was in sight and as I parked my car and wandered off through the dust. I realized that not many people have the opportunity to see the Canyon proper, alone, surrounded by absolutely nobody. I spent a good hour and a half wandering around until I found a good boulder overlooking the canyon that looked like a proper sittin' spot. From there I watched the sun slowly fade behind the sandstone towers that surround the hole and let the dust of the desert settle into my bones before returning to town feeling fulfilled and refreshed.

Stolen pic but it looked like this, minus the rainbow, plus my presence.

Thursday and Friday were pretty much a wash, I'm sure I did some drinkin' or something but nothing worth bragging about.

Saturday night however... I slung the lattes until close and booked it out of the shop at the speed of sound. One of my favorite bands of my youth was playing a free show on campus and be damned if I missed it. I've seen Less Than Jake no less than 3 times as memory serves and every show has been memorable to say the least (that's where that story stops). Regardless this washed up late 90s ska band played a set that was almost identical to the last time I saw them at 15 years old, right down to their two encore songs. Classic and made me feel right back in jr. high, even though I was surrounded by 18 year olds who were solely at the show because they hadn't found enough friends at freshman orientation to know where the booze is at.

This dude has literally looked like this since I saw him at Warped Tour 2000. Something about my childhood likes that.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: I once again made plans with John boy to hit the roof of Arizona and be damned if I was going to let him bail again. I was awake at 8 and ready to go. The weather was gusty and abnormally cool to say the least. I started texting John at 9 telling him to get up and get to the mt. Fast forward 2 hours and somehow John managed to get out of bed and I harassed, threatened to do the hike solo and lied long enough about the 70% chance of t-storms that we were bound for the trailhead. Finally got to hiking around 11:15, with my stomach churning with excitement and fear knowing that we might break treeline in the middle of a wicked storm.

Broke treeline around 1:45. Not many people were summiting Humphrey's that day which I thought seemed odd as it's a pretty moderate, albeit time consuming, 10 mile hike and we somehow managed to stay out of the wet. Figured it out once we got up there though. It seemed that with every 100 feet of elevation and exposure we gained above treeline the wind would crank it up another 10mph. We went from steady 60mph hurt on the first false summit, to steady 75mph on the second and finally got stuck with 95mph gusts making the final steep 100 meter push vertical to the summit. It was cold and miserable up there but the experience was soooo worth it. Most guide books warn that any weekend you will be battling up to 100 other people getting to the top, we had the summit to ourselves the entire 30 minutes we were there. Not too shabby at all.

So here's to great holes, great heights and washed up musicians who still make me smile.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Racin' Bikes

I has no pickthures, sorry.

I raced a bike today, first time racing a mtb since RIM last summer. The Absolute Bikes Classic MTB Race up on the snowbowl mountain, I was amped. I've dropped 10 lbs since I've moved here, held onto the fast group rides, ridden harder than I have for a long time and felt prepared.

And I'm pretty sure I was. The race was two 10 mile laps, 6 miles up, 2 miles flat, 2 miles descending. And I felt great on everything that wasn't riding straight up a wall. Once we got the steep part of the climb settled I started railing past people in the tech corners and flying through the short downhill sections. And then the big downhill started. Somehow I had ridden into the pro/expert women's race and was cruising with a Luna racer on the downhill trading 30mph bombs as we could sneak past each other in the corners. One of us missed a turn and neither realized it until we ended up on a dirt road that was definitely not part of the course. There were two beginner riders standing in the middle of the road, scratching their heads and wondering how they got there as well...

Needless to say I was beyond furious, a 4 mile detour left me well out of contention for that top 10 spot (out of a giant 60 man field) that I put myself in the pain locker for just moments before. I rolled back into the start area with my timing chip already in my hand and just tossed it at the course timer uttering the words, "Fuck this race." I don't think I have ever been more furious in a race situation in my life, I tried to hunt down the promoter to express to him how much of a worthless hack he was for not being able to tape a course (among other qualms I held with the unorganized cluster). But he must have been hiding behind his douche bush somewhere because he was nowhere to be found.

I wanted to yell and scream and scream and punch, but I'm glad there was no one to be found to take that out on. The best description of the cat who was promoting this race was a Jeremy Haynes with absolutely none of the wit/tact or talent and who I have no affiliation with. He was trying so hard to be old school and put on an old school mtb race, but this was a 300 rider race and it ended up just being a waste of my money. And just to clarify, I know Jeremy doesn't read this blog (so I'm safe), and I have known that asshat way too long to dislike him, but those of you who haven't may relate to the sentiment.

Anyways, I'm glad I couldn't find anyone to scream at. Because Flagstaff is a tiny town and even though the bike community is big, I still have no business burning bridges quite yet.

Regardless, I went to work after the race for 9 hours and calmed down. I came home and opened a beer and watched 180 South. I would highly recommend all of my adventuring buddies to check this flick out, it put me in a better mood. It really expressed adventure in the purest way possible through conservation, surfing and climbing. Made me happy and reminded me why I still play in the woods after such a bust of a day.

Anyways, I'm back to the normal tipsy, happy, blogging Slater. I'm going to the Pit tomorrow to burn off any left over resentment on the limsetsone and life is still good in the lodgepole pines.

So here's to now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Work Hard Play Hard

WOOOHOOOOO! I got off work at 5pm today, out the door while the suns still shining! I was that stoked for about 2.7 seconds before I realized how hard I have been on my body in the last few weeks. Time for a rest night.
But y'all get a quick recap of the week anyways...

I've been gettin' after it like it's made to be got after since the last update. Most everyday I have had to work a 12-9 or some variation ending well past 9 since the service industry rarely is telling of actual scheduling. But the late wake-ups mean I can pump out a quick 7-8 on the feet or a nice road ride before work, accompanied by 2 hangboard workouts a day in my never ending quest to send those 5.12s and running around my coffee shop like a madman...

Those things are only the beginning to the end of this story though, the real detriment to the temple of Slater began Wednesday afternoon. I got hooked up rather well and was scheduled a nice short, non-closing shift at work followed by a Thursday off. Well... the Wednesdays in Flagstaff are the Thursdays in Lawrence, the two bars that are dirty enough to still get a loyal college kid following (tourist free) in the summer run .25 cent drink specials and throw raging parties. So we raged, it's pretty rad that I've met enough people already that I am already running into/garnishing a crew of nightlifers and like minded individuals into my life.

Long story short, the limit ordering at the bar is "3 drinks" per person and the .25 special at the Greenroom runs from 8-10pm and then starts again at 11, so every time one ventures to the bar they are "forced" to order a double and a beer, just in case they can't get a drink again before the specials end... And since I'm a pirate of a goat and know a little bit about math, I have determined that for that one $6 bottle or Barton's gin that serves 16 drinks I am officially dominating their rent check for that bar since there is no way I will let them ever make money off of me... if I drink it all fast enough and boogie down to the 80's jams pumping in the backgound.

So Happy to be on something less runout finally.

Whew, not a short story at all. BUT Thursday was my day off of work so I had to do something with it. Took the Dudesons back to the Pit after a quick cancellation (due to massive hangovers ) of the Southwest's destination sport climbing crag of Jack's Canyon. Climbing is pretty rad right now because I get to pick out lines, lead them, set up a top rope and then just sit back and tan while the other dudesons give it a shot and try to work out the kinks.

Yup, I live here.

I had a full day scheduled and 4 5.10D routes that I wanted to run down. 5.10D proved to be about the edge of my sanity for the day and I got scaredddddddd on a 20 foot runout under a ledge that I could not see the next bolt from. Regardless I was the only one who could lead that day so I kept setting up ropes and slowly unraveling until I called it quits for my own mental health.

Woke up today and headed out for work, thinking that I was closing the place down. Negative once again, only had to work until five. I'm pretty sure that mindset works well as long as I know when to show up. So I was stoked that I would be off of work in time to catch the Yonder Mountain String Band jammin out at the amphitheatre up the street. But 6 tacos and a handful of Dale's later and I was just quite motivated enough to walk out on my porch to see if I could hear anything, alas all I could hear was awkward reverb and too much traffic trying to get to my side of the mountain. A noble attem

Tomorrow is attempt #3 of hanging with John Boy's new roadie team in the hammerfest Saturday ride, hopefully no rain so I can actually show up this week. I think it's gonna be good, regardless of how it turns out. I obtained phone numbers of the other cyclists pre-ride tonight so we could meet up, toast and talk about how slow I am tomorrow night.

So here's to pushing the body until it needs an ice bath, hating on it some more, numbing the pain, and then hurting it again.

P.S. Happy Bachelor Party Bundy, sorry I couldn't be there bud.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life As It Should Be Lived

Warning: This is the true story of my weekend. Reading these tales or any following this may cause jealousy, envy or the insatiable urge to move west. Read at your own risk.

Saturday: Started rather uneventfully. I drank too much wine with my neighbor during a thunderstorm that knocked out our cable and provided a light show big enough to make the mountain smell like burnt ozone the night before. So I was plenty relieved when I awoke to go hammer with the locals on the Saturday morning road ride and I found nothing but more rain that didn't look like it would let up anytime soon. Back to bed I went until it was time to sling the lattes at noon.

I slung the lattes until about nine o'clock and hustled home to change out of clothes that smell of burnt espresso beans and hop on the cross bike to cruise downtown. Met up with Senor Giles and our new bud Jason at the Rendezvous. Jason seems like the man to know in the bike world here, he runs one of the largest bike teams in Phoenix and seems to know who's who and what's what.

When I entered the Rendezvous martini bar I encountered the same phenomena that I seem to encounter every time I enter a martini bar... they can't remember what an actual martini looks like. It's an interesting conundrum that I have encountered more than a few times in my life. They have a shiny menu full of drinks that taste like chocolate, or lemons or apples but when walking to the bar and uttering the words, "martini, dirty, Gordons" the bartender returns a blank stare and runs to find whoever is in charge of the joint. Regardless I got a drink and spent a few of the strong ones flowing prose with Jason and Johnny about bikes, motorcycles, cars and life.
The Piano Room's logo. A small door off an alleyway is the only entrance, and inside looks just as much like a 1940's speakeasy as their logo gives away.

Afterwards we stumbled to the billards room so my compatriots could experience a joint cutthroat schooling. And then quickly headed back to the street and ended up in the piano bar. Piano bar made me feel like Dean Martin, it was old school and too classy for a boy like me. They served infused alcohol and their bar didn't have a bottom shelf, no tourists and the bartender knows your first name without having ever been introduced... too good. What's a boy to do but take on the Habanero infused tequila challenge. It was harsh, hot and oh so complex. Felt like a king for the return voyage home.

Sunday: WOOOOOHOOOOO, day off work. God bless the Christians who run my coffee bar for shutting the place down one day a week. I guzzled water, coffee and bread with a vengance to quell the remaining tequila and headed to the the Pit to climb. My goal for the day was to finally climb 5.11 in style in this state. Didn't happen. Hopped on 5.10D Popeye and got a very solid and clean redpoint. Returned to the dirt and got sketched out by the starting moves on the .11c I had been scoping since the belay station was only big enough to hold a belayer and a fall from the first bolt would result in both of us tumbling a solid 40 feet. So I moved a little farther over and attempted to lead a very stout overhung 5.10D, felt good until the top and could not figure out what to do. I had no beta on this route, didn't know the rating and couldn't figure out the final five foot sequence to get to the bolts. So I scooted over and climbed the chimney adjacent, set up an anchor and gave it a top rope rehearsal. Solid, the sequence that I had a go at on lead were solid 5.11+ moves, rapping off of it showed me a neat little sidepull that turned it back into 5.10d. Sent it clean but it took forrrreeevvvver.

Top-rope master Johnny trying to work .10d. He's making progress and has learned to give a solid lead belay.

After the few solid burns we got we decided to quit fighting the trafiic circus that is The Pit on the weekends and go ride bikes. But by the time we hiked out of the canyon and back to the car it was decided that we were too tired, hungry and sunburnt to ride. So downtown we headed. Scooped up some grub on the patio of local badass burrito eatery The Black Bean and listened to the live bluegrass tunes coming from the stage not 20 foot ahead of us.

I think the overall moral of the story that I told myself this afternoon went something like this, "Here I am, sitting at a delicious local eatery (as a new local), 7000ft in the air, listening to live tunes, watching the old hippies dance and drink, with chalk still on my hands from the absolutely gorgeous limestone burn I just sent less than an hour ago. This is about as good as life gets."

So here's to solid rock, good buds, good booze, good food, good music and the sweet mountain air.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Good Life

So I have promised a few people that I would finish a bottle of wine and have at this blog with the fervor and wit reserved the days of yore. Well... I didn't. And quite honestly, I find it rather unmanly to finish a bottle of California's finest/cheapest merlot at home when one lives with another dudeson, so I really don't see that situation occuring anytime soon.

Regardless I feel the need to regale the readership with tales of my current mountain town.

I've been here for almost three solid weeks. I'm doing what I love to bring home the bacon (slinging lattes where lattes need to be slunged) and the cool mountain air is as amazing to live in as I always envisioned.

THE RIDING: To start, our nearest singletrack is less than 1 mile away via the cities ultra-expansive multi-use trail. 42 miles of ultra-drainable desert dirt/gravel line all of the streets to make this the most impressive bike city I have ever encountered. And only 1 mile to the right of my doorstep drops me off in front of the cities after work superflowy loop. 10ish miles of singletrack provide everything from bomber 40 mph doubletrack to a technical loop that rivals Clintion's white trail. The best part though... it is never, ever, ever muddy. We have had days with flash flood warnings in the last week. And instead of turning the trails into mush, it turns into velcro infused hardpack.

Aside from the super close riding, the rest of the riding resides between 3 and 7 miles away and has proven to blow the mind on the decents (the ascents are less mind blowing but I'm sure once my elevation lungs are about me they will be equally glorious.)

Don't let the Goats hear me say this but the road riding here is equally amazing. Once outside of the city limits you can climb and climb and climb until you are done. And then bomb back down. Climbing 2o miles uphill to be rewarded with 60mph downhills can be quite entertaining to say the least.

THE CLIMBING: It's here, it's all here. My first few weeks were spent traveling around solo with a pack filled with shoes and chalk, freesoloing whatever looked freesoloable. I met some cool locals who threw a harness at me during my first visit to "Petit Verdon" and let me use their rope while I was eyeballing a 70 foot line that I was looking at just hanging out ropeless. Very chill people up in the thin mountain air, giving some stranger a belay on their gear.

Last weekend I taught our next door neighbor how to use all of his gym climbing gear to get out in the wilderness and found an even better belay buddy. And tomorrow, hoping the weather holds, Johnny will be learning his first outdoor on rope commands.

THE PEOPLE: They're all like me (or us). Everyone rides a mountain bike, everyone climbs, everyone drinks good beer with a pirate like thirst. I've sat outside the locals spots and listened to the hardmen spin yarns of epics on El Cap, Mt. Whitney or that last gnarly local race. The outdoorsmen run this town, and in a town this size that is a refreshing feeling.

So here's to the blog, the town and having life at your fingertips.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Roadie Rant Thursday

So I wasn't sure if I should post this or not and have marinated in it since I got off my bike tonight, my first instinct about the matter was to rage hard in regards but after a shower and some food I thought it best to not act hastily. Here I am three hours later still pissed about it, yes it is incredibly petty and yes we have all probably experienced it but...

The last few Thursday nights I've been riding Lawrence's local "Vomit Comet" road ride. Known for being a 25 mile long absolute hammerfest. I really enjoy this ride since it gives me the chance to sit in a crazy fast group, ride at my limit, make a few hard efforts at the front and get popped out the back knowing that I actually did some bike riding that night.

Well tonight went about the same as every Thursday. I led the group out of town for a bit rolling at a decent warm up clip, Adam Mills and some tri-dude dragged us out to the turn off and split and the ride was officially on. There was an incredible lack of work sharing with pulls tonight and about half the crew was just sitting in the back sucking wheel, now I'm all for that tactic if I am riding in a BIG social group ride. But this is the damn comet, it's over in an hour, go to the front and take a damn pull or come back when you are fit enough to at least try.

Regardless of that I took a few more pulls and got spit out the back around the half way marker as Thom Leonard absolutely motored up the rollers. After I got spit off I turned the pace wayyy down and recovered for a few miles. About a half mile ahead of me I could see a female GP Velotek rider (one of the aforementioned sitter inners) had just got spit out too. I figured I would keep the pace slow for a bit, recover and then go catch her and ride in together.

Here's where the story really starts: about mile 16 I catch her on a climb and as I ride up beside I say hello and smile, she doesn't even acknowledge my existence just keeps cranking. So I think to myself "Hey self, I bet she's just too far in the pain locker to say hello back. Why don't you let her sit on your wheel up this climb." So that's what I did. And then continued to let her sit back there for a few more climbs while she yo-yo'ed back and forth. Good deed for the day is done.

After we turn onto north 1400 to cruise back into town I shut down the pace and once again ride beside her and say "Think the wind shifted on us? That hurt a little bit." With a grin cocked and a chuckle. This time she acknowledged my existence with a scowl and a corner of the eye glance. At this point I am fuming, in my head I am screaming, "I just dragged you around for the last few miles and you are well aware that we are on the same group ride because I am well aware that you were sandbagging around behind my wheel for a good portion of it."

To put the icing on the cake, when we reach the traditional "group sprint" end she comes motoring along past me around 26 mph with the full on metronome body bob and maybe a 50rpm cadence. So I once again cruised up next to her seated and just stared as we crossed the line directly next to each other. I didn't offer my assistance by pointing out that she was wasting all of her energy bobbing around like a jack in the box or in a highly inappropriate gear for a sprint at that speed. I am fully aware that no woman wants to be told what to do, especially from a hairy legged dude on a cross bike.

But seriously roadie douche queen... wtf? You were blatantly rude to a fellow rider who not only towed you ass in the group, but also out of the group? Is this just a shitty personality trait of yours? Does the silver back of your money sucking shell of a club hold meetings on how to sit in the back of rides and not do a goddamn thing while you ride laps around a lake campground? Is this some grudge you hold against mt. bikers or cross bikes? Or did daddy just treat you poorly and now you have an aversion to strange men?

Long story short: roadie douche queen + mtb>rb + GP Velotek is effin' lame + rant = me angrily blowing an isolated incident out of the water

(I am going to commit blaspheme and quote R5 now so sit tight while type this toast.)

So here's to the pirates of the dirt, and as R5 said in regards to our scene demolishing the road scene re the Bonebener, "Beer, hotdogs, and babes: shit you never see roadies get a sniff of. While you shaved leg weenies are drinking your recovery concoctions, we're taking recovery rides with your wives." Except for whomever's wife this was...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mountains Ahoy!

I think the majority of the world has heard the news by now. But for those not in the loop, I will be a resident of Flagstaff, Arizona as of July. Scored a swank little condo with Senor Johnny G. near campus and downtown and off we go next month.

I think I get more excited to live in a mountain town every day. I've been dreaming about moving west (as every young man does) for wayyy too long now and I see this as a re-focusing of my life. I know the majority of you reading this have seen this blog since inception and watched it turn from a bike blog, to a runner's rantings, to a lazy summer bum's tales to a climber's party tales. This last year in Lawrence I have felt pretty stagnant, no real motivation to ride the same trails over and over again and even Arkansas has started to become redundant in the climbing scene.

But in Flagstaff... I will be living 6 miles away from world class sport climbing. And my local crag has many more 5.12s than 5.9s (and no 5.8-). To put this in perspective, I believe my "local crag" of HCR has about 10 5.9 and under climbs for every 5.12. Which means that if I want to continue climbing it's time for me to either put up or shut up, I can't really sit and stall at a 5.11+ limit anymore and have it be any kind of impressive or even acceptable. Which is pretty rad since I firmly believe once a climber has found their technique climbing in the 5.10-5.11 range it is rarely a challenge to come back to them after time off and becomes more instinct and rock reading, which admittedly accounts for my lack of gym time this year while I am still increasing my onsight level.

I'll also be living in a hot bed of new mtb trails and looking forward to seeing switchbacks, logrides and jumps on the local xc trails again. I have super high hopes that I can land a job that affords me a decent new XC rig this year as that has always been great motivation for me to get out and ride, coupled with the scenery and the town itself. My anticipation for new riding has already kicked in and I have had the roadie out in force the last few weeks attempting to gain the composure back that a year on a motorcycle killed in me. If things go as planned I'll be riding 24hrs of Moab this year and if they don't than I'll still be riding rad trails at home 6 mths. a year and gooseberry/moab the rest of it.

Whitewater Kayaking: This has always been one of those things that I have thought would close my triangle of things I am good at. When I reference "the triangle" I feel like a mid-90's Mountain Dew ad. But the mtb, the climbing and the whitewater have always seemed like the three most extreme outdoor activities to me since I was a kid, the pinnacles of their respective properties (land, water and air). I can hang my hat comfortably on two and apparently Flagstaff has some good stuff in the water and I am pretty stoked to see it. I suck in the water (there's not much reason to be good in it living in KS) but have high hopes that the next year will be good learning regardless.

So I have to get back to attempting to sell the motorcycle, furniture and spare parts now to make this adventure hurt financially as little as possible.

But here's to new trails, new rock, new water, new friends, new local beer and focus.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Treading the Water of Life

Oh the neglected blogosphere. I'm back and after what feels like a few months of holding my breath I feel like I almost have my head above water.

Conversation point #1: I graduated college. After 5 long years they finally kicked me out with a degree in psychology with a minor in political science from the great University of Kansas. That felt amazing for a minute until the boozey haze of graduation weekend ended and I realized I still had to figure out what to do next. I've made some big steps in that direction lately and should be out of the midwest quite soon, more details later on that one.

Woot! Graduated.

Regardless graduation weekend was super rad. Mike Draper and myself hosted a co-kegger grad party. The Fink family unit made the drive up and I had all of my climber family mixed up with the old Lawrence crew and the girl for the night. Felt great to have all of my best friends in the same place for the night. It was a true rarity for my collected memories and if you came than thank you, it made my grad weekend. On Sunday I walked down the hill and enjoyed the lovely tradition that all of us Jayhawks can forever bond in, celebrated with my family and then went on a 2 man pub crawl to re-live our (now) college past.

Conversation point #2: What's a college graduate to do when they are still working at a coffee shop with no real life obligations? Go climbing of course. So last weekend I headed back to the ranch with the trio of Carol, Rachelle and Jess to send some gnar rock. John Waller was already in the great state or AR so he joined us as well and we went to sendin'. Not too much to report on the whole climbing front. I almost onsighted another 5.11 and have high hopes that .11a will be my onsight grade by the end of the summer, sounds kinda lame and sport climberish but I have come to terms with the fact that that's all I currently am for now until I get a job, build a rack and hit the mountains.

J-Dub cut his teeth on his first outdoor lead climb ever on a pretty stout 5.10b at the prophecy wall. It was a very impressive first send on the sharp end and just goes to show that once again John "Good at Everything" Waller can get the job done. I'm pretty sure if you have a conversation about it with him he will mention something about it being less hard than I am making it out to be, but a .10 for your first time out on real rock is damn impressive (don't let him tell you anything else). Overall the weekend ended up being a great way to gain some composure. We climbed in the morning, swam in the Buffalo in the afternoon, climbed again in the dark and attended a most rad wedding reception in the HCR barn.

Conversation Point #3: This was a while back but I know a lot of you who read this have participated in this event in the past so it's worth a mention. David Neidinger hosted the Biro 3.0 at his pad and team WallerSlate dominated. Johnny Giles' team almost showed up with some good competition but in the end proved to be choke artists. So I now have the shirt to show that I belong on the hall of fame wall with the likes of Bundy/Kristen and Schroeder/Hemphill.

So here's to growing up, climbing rocks, and combining the great sports of beer drinking and bike riding.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Final Trip

Last weekend I headed down to Horseshoe Canyone Ranch with the KURC for my fianl trip ever with these kids. It's a most giant bummer for myself to have to leave this club or rock crushing stone bandits, but apparently life has to move on.

We started the weekend on Thursday night with a Jeep full of kids who climb harder than me (the ego took a hit on that one) and partied hard until we reached HCR around 5:00 in the morning. From then we threw up some tents and slept until 11am. And then the quartet of Lesage, Spalding, Surface and I went sendin'.

This is what our campfires look life, don't be too jealous

Friday: We went craggin' at the Prophecy Wall and it was good. Got warm on a .10b and moved over to a giant roof line titled "Taliban Soup." The Soup is a hard .11D that not only requires some serious rock-reading skills but also some serious burl to pull the roof. I got hung up on a balancey, lie back in the middle of the route after not trusting the beta that was being shouted from the dirt. So it didn't go clean, but it did go and after getting shut down on Flying Elvis just a few weeks before it felt good to pull some overhangs.

After we left Prophecy we built a giant tent fort at the campground in preparation for the impending storm and went back to send town over at the north 40. Racked up some biners and ticked off another .10 over there and then went to town on Sonny Jim with Andrew Spalding, an .11b with a neat roof. Almost, almost, almost had the onsight, and damn it would have felt good to say I did it. But once again my rock reading skills proved to be the downfall for the send. Hung once and cleaned up the roof.

Saturday: Some more creatures from the north joined us just in time to watch an Arkansas tsunami wash over the Canyon. Once the sun came out we headed to the aptly named "Goat Cave" for some super overhung climbing and what I can only imagine was the only dry climbing to be found that morning. The goats were there when we arrived, hiding from the wet but they quickly dispersed as the clouds moved away. The bottom of the cave was covered in inedible cocoa pebbles and it smelled like a petting zoo (to us city boys). Regardless of the smell, the climbs were a straight burl-fest. Start overhung and climb out of a cave, that was pretty much the name of the game for everything there.

Sunday: My hands were worked, my head ached from partying too hard in the barn the night before and my balance wasn't the best in the world. Regardless if this was to be my last trip with the club I wanted to go out the same way I came in, on top of Orange Crush. To all the climbers reading this, yes I know it's a cliche to talk about this line and how rad it is but stfu. It's the tallest climb at the Ranch by far, it's a 4 star climb, it's rated so I can lead it clean and still have a ridiculous amount of fun and it has the best view of the Canyon of any crag at that place. So yes it was gorgeous, yes it was well within my limits, yes the bolts were a little too closely spaced together and yes if I climbed it at sunset I would "like totally tell you how totally gorgeous it was." I have that view on top of that rock to forever couple with the memory of my last club trip and that is something I can most definitely live with.

So here's to pushing your personal limits, sending harder than planned, the canyon, the views and those dang creatures of the Arkansas craggin' scene.

Freefallin: The tale of the weekend of the 16th

Friday: I quit early from the coffee shop and raced down to the LRT to demo some Trek bikes. Rode some pretty rad squishy things. I hauled ass on a Trek Top Fuel, cruised on the Superfly 100 and hucked as much gnar as I could for the LRT on a Rumblefish. All of them were rad. I won't write a novel about the experience since I don't have the background in suspension or bikes that aren't my own to write even remotely a well thought out experience.

Saturday: Hopped on the road bike and headed out by myself. Probably the first solo road ride I have enjoyed doing in quite some time. Lawrence to Perry Lake to Clinton Lake by the day's end, all in a breezy 5mph crosswind.

Suit up!

SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! I jumped the heck out of a plane. It was the most rad experience of my life by far. It was kind of the culmination of every adrenaline rush I have ever chased in my life. I liken it to going full throttle on my motorcycle straight up in the air, jumping off, taking a 5000 foot whipper and then sitting on top of a giant route trying to catch your breath.

I was pretty nervous going into the day seeing as I had a good 9 months of anticipation building up inside of me. Once the flight suit was on and I watched my altimeter climb as I sat on the metal floor of a tiny plane shaking at speed the nervousness disappeared and a calm set in, the closest I can liken it to is sitting at the base of a very runout project and knowing you can do it but knowing it's going to hurt if you don't do it right.

The minute I hucked out the door of the plane all of those feelings disappeared. I was in freefall for 30 seconds and it was the most serene 30 seconds of my life. Some people talk about getting tunnel vision when they free fall, some people say their brain blacks out, mine did the opposite. I felt a very acute awareness of my surroundings, I was cruising at 130mph through the air, looking around in awe with life, calm and happier than I think I have ever been in my life. I firmly believe that I could spend the next 50 years as a buddhist monk and I would never achieve the serenity that washed over me the second I gained composure after tumbling out of that plane.

So here's to the weekend. Long live long rides, carbon wonder bikes and jumping from way up.

Party at Graceland

The first weekend of April I made my return trip to Cave Creek in Arkansas. The club took down a smaller group of kids to send hard and that is what we did. I had my sights set on a severely overhanging 5.12a named "Flying Elvis." I've been eye-f*cking this line for almost 9 months now, it is honestly one of the boldest and most beautiful lines I have ever seen AR. I got the chance to top-rope it a titch on the March trip but couldn't work the crux side pull, so this line got deep into my brain. The minute I got to Cave Creek I warmed up and went straight to Elvis. I had redpointed this thing at least a dozen times in my dreams the month leading up to tying into the sharp-end at the base of this climb, but alas those dreams did not become a reality. I flailed at the crux for probably a half hour before resigning myself to come back and try it later that day.

Flying off Elvis' Crux

Little did I know that the rest of the day would be spent with Brian Lesage climbing things that are just at or past my limit. After pulling through a .10d and then following up the most technical .11D I have ever seen in my life I was so exhausted that I could not climb a 5.10A on top-rope and felt like a soccer short, shoe renting, plastic pulling squid.

The next morning I returned to Elvis and pulled through the crux moves but my body was just too worked to clip the following bolt and move onto the juggy finish. Elvis got me good but at least I know that I got his number now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fear and Loathing in my Harness

Spring Break 2010 brought upon a most epic adventure. 31 rock climbers from my fair university piled into a few vans and headed west to wage wars of mischief and mayhem against the unsuspecting Red Rocks Canyon Park as well as the cities of Las Vegas and Moab.

After 20 hours of sleeping shotgun in an Element I found myself right outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Which happens to be the most desolate, trashy, over the top, wino filled crap hole that I would hope to be so lucky as to someday call my home. Anyways, after burning through that town we arrived at the doorstep of Red Rocks Natl. Park only to find that there were no camping spaces available! And just to add insult to injury the wind was whippin around 45 mph (which is the most painful thing in the world when that wind is laced with sand). Long story short, some fast shuckin' and jivin' was done by the officers. We were allowed to stay and a short trip to the bar kept us out of the wind.

The morning of day 1 bestowed upon myself the most excellent present a boy could wish for: calm sunny skies, dry dirt and warm rock. And with that day bestowed upon myself I took upon the conquest of slaying the first multi-pitch, free route of my life. Ryan Surface and I sent a mighty 600' 5.7 climb free and clean. Slaying this beast was quite possibly the most heady brew I have ever taken down. Sitting on belay anchor built with 2 smaller cams and a nut, on an edge roughly 2" larger than my ass in every direction, 500' in the air is one of the most intense, nerve racking experiences of my life. But also reaching the summit and then thanking the dirt for welcoming me back to the base at the end proved to be one of the most freeing feelings that I believe can ever be experienced.

View from the aforementioned tiny belay station.

Day 2 saw my first day of sport climbing for the trip. I hit up the Magic Bus Wall inside the park and immediately set up a slabby 5.6 warm up next to what was supposed to be "the climb" to make the day, a super slab 5.10d that looked like a sick cheese grater if my foot was to take a slip that shared an anchor with my warm up. Anyways the decision to leave the anchor and try it on TR before it was lead was made, and after that tr session nobody wanted to eff with that climb anymore. So we made our way over right and sent some cruiser 5.8/9 leads while letting the sun soak us up.

Somewhere along the next few days I hit up the black corridor and got on some semi-runout mid-high tens and hit the panty wall to throw down on even more 8s and 9s. Overall the sport climbing in Red Rock park was big, exposed and super fun. Although I can say I grew to appreciate Arkansas for having as diverse of terrain as it does. Every climb on a certain wall more or less was a different variation of the same features simply because of their height and wind exposure.

Day 4: A nice casual morning of bouldering in Calico Basin started what has to be the most mind blowing St. Patrick's Day that I will ever have in my life. Post boulder session we descended upon Vegas like the thirsty bunch of creatures that KURC is. The Sahara's pool was filled with filthified climber bums, the pre-game was rocked along with a trip to the in-n-out burger, post pre-game got rocked as well, the strip was taken with force, cops broke up a sidewalk dance party, beasts were shotgunned outside Circus Circus, things got peed on and the Belaggio horse statue may have been ridden by a German kid.

Sidewalk dance party.

Bleary eyed and dehydrated brought upon the start of day 5. I believe the events of this day went like this.
10:00 amish- Hit McDonalds for breakfast (walk since we may or may not be legal to drive) with a few of the boys that partied as hard...ish as me the night before.
10:30am - Bail on shirts and pray that the intense desert sun poolside at the Sahara can make us sweat this out.
11.15 am- Open new beers and start packing
12:00 pm-ride roller coaster on the strip
9:oo pm - wake up in Moab, Utah

So Moab went like this: It was raining and wet when we got up and sleeting shortly after, so we went into town to work up a healthy morning buzz off of Moab's own brewery while waiting for the rock to dry. Once it did dry I climbed a whole bunch of top-ropes on "wall street" and felt like I was in a gym. Super featured crack climbing right outside your car door in one of the most amazing cities in the world is pretty rad. I led another super easy crack climb just to practice my placements some more. This place literally took everything I love about climbing outdoors and mixed it with the convenience of the gym.

The next morning a big ol' lot of whatever climbers hadn't bailed on the trip yet went out to Corona arch and jumped the 'eff off the top. Not really but we rappelled off it which is almost as neat. After I did that I cruised up to the top of Portal Trail to enjoy one of the most scenic views Moab has to offer, hit the campground again, split a bottle of wine, packed camp and headed back to Lawrence.

Corona Arch adorned with our ropes.

So here's to my last Spring Break, Vegas, Moab, the KURC and the rock that keeps leading us back to these adventures.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cave Creek Craziness

Last weekend was the first warm weekend of the year for KS. Regardless I decided to get the eff out of dodge and head south to the great state of Arkansas. I think I'm just a few visits short of being able to claim dual citizenship between both forms of the Kansas.

So here's the digs. We camped at Sam's Throne but climbed at Cave Creek. I think Cave is becoming one of my favorite areas to climb "locally" since it has plenty of shiny bolts but is secluded enough with a hard enough approach that it still remains rather isolated. There definitely isn't the quantity of climbs that HCR has but seeing as how we only have the routes to share among ourselves it's pretty rad.

Saturday I really just wanted to play around on some easy 5.8-5.9 sport routes and kind of get my "lead head" back on my shoulders in preparation for spring break. That didn't work out as well as I thought it should. I did knock out a nice 5.9 to warm up on, so at that point the day was going as planned. As soon as we had rapped off the bolts from the warm up I decided that the slab to our immediate right needed to be put up. Problem: the first bolt was about 23 feet off the ground, talk about getting my lead head screwed on nice and tight.

View from the first bolt

After I scared myself witless on the slab I wandered a little further to the left and found a whole bunch of cams dangling from a tree. So what did I decide to do in this situation? Of course I racked up said cams and sent my first trad lead. No guidance, no top-rope mach-ups or rehearsals, just grab the gear and go on up.

Pluggin' my first cam on lead.

By this time in the day I realized that easing myself back into an outdoor season with a solid responsible head on my shoulders just isn't the sort of thing that I am good at. However running out my protection and praying that my gear will hold are two things I do seem to be okay at. So for my final climbs of the day I just hopped back on things that are on the upper end of my onsight level when I am in shape, and right now isn't one of those times. So I ended the weekend with two pretty flailtastic 5.10+ sport routes.

So here's to warm rock, dry dirt, and decisions that always seem to work out.