Saturday, August 5, 2017




Cory's cheeks smooshed against blue velour, mouth slightly ajar.  His gangly legs stretched from door to door, covering the entire back bench in our family Buick.  On the floor parallel, a little girl twisted comfortably over the hump dividing passenger from driver sides.  I was five, my brother eight and my parents, they were parent aged.


Dad packed our car to a wobble and he now steered the Brett clan westward.  The pre-dawn light seeped over the horizon at our backs, but I couldn't feel any of this...passed out in my little carpet nook. 

Our first big foray in the Buick swept us from our little suburban home near Minneapolis to the Badlands, South Dakota.  I became feverish when my brother even looking out my window.  Mom bribed quite hours with M&M's and small rations of Shasta soda.  We mingled amongst crowds of families on similar vacation circuits  




Year two we ventured the white sedan further from home to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore, melding our version of family tradition.  We assumed our assigned positions, racing westward across state borders.  Entertainment at Mt. Rushmore was a family spitting contest over the Monument railings.  No disrespect, just a quick lesson in physics.  

Our third year we visited Glacier National Park where I learned valuable socializing skills— bar hopping!  Apparently fond of our horseback guide, I followed him into a local pub and plopped down on a bar stool next to him (I was seven). 


Cory and my gangly legs began spurting out the bottom of our pants and curiosity gushing from our ears.  With each passing summer my parents also outgrew their comfort zones.  On the first vacation trip, my mother carried a flu stricken little girl on her back to the summit of Harney’s Peak, South Dakota.  Now the adolescent children carried their own overnight backpacks.  

Mother embraced tent life while dad calmly learned to operate heavy machinery, our new dictionary sized home video recorder.  We all exchanged the comforts of a hotel, swimming pool or television screens, for tactile wilderness entertainment.  We scrambled up and over Rocky Mountains boulders and held competitions who could stand in frigid alpine lakes the longest.  As the orange sun settled over expansive skylines, we discussed the wild animals we had seen and gazed at the expanse of stars.  Our cozy tent ballooned with laughter during take-turn ghost stories.  Waiting for sleep to come a sweeping cool breeze soothed my tired legs and curious mind. 





Armpit hair and crackling voices brought us through California, Oregon and Washington.   In Yosemite I proclaimed, "I am going to climb that one day," craning my neck up at El Capitan.  One of our last trips found us in the Cascades.  My brother dropped off, now in college.  With only one child to entertain, my dad and I mimicked seal calls, while I tried not to be a moody teenager.  




By the time I graduated High School, I had visited nearly every National Park or Monument west of the Mississippi (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).  Attending the University in Minnesota, I found missed the freedom of the West.  I didn’t enjoy learning from lectures, I missed learning from my own mistakes and experiences.  I pushed through four years quickly.  As others walked across the stage accepting their diploma, I was probably accepting a speeding tickets somewhere in Nebraska.     

My parents didn't have a ton of money, nor much free time.  Our family vacations unloaded their two weeks paid time off for the year.  In talking with them now, years later, my dad expressed sentiment towards one goal as a parent, “to play.”  The beauty of play for a child, but also to maintain that sense of wonderment as an adult.   


This spring in Zion National Park, a young boy on the shuttle bus into the park was enthusiastically describing his wilderness experience that day.  His eyes were wide, energy bursting outward from his lightly tanned skin.  Science has proven time and time again the positive effects wilderness and play has on our physical well-being but also our mental health.  Exercise in our early years helps with brain development, particularly the speed of which we can learn, decipher and retain new information.  The added bonus of instilling an appreciation for play and outdoor experiences in our younger generations is they will hopefully carry a voice for protecting public lands in the future, an entire bag of worms I won't delve into....  

Play and adulthood are not mutually exclusive.  Nor is play restrictive to the outdoors, although this is the version that nabbed me.  As I have aged and chosen a life with more play than the average adult, I feel inspired to encourage others to remember play.  I am lucky to have found a work path in the National Parks, though I didn't come here directly.  Now, I am part of a specialized team who provide technical search, rescue and medical assistance to those who have a had bad fortune during their wilderness experience.  Everyday I get to connect with visitors, sharing my passion.  Ultimately sharing outdoors time with children and adults, one-by-one infecting them —- giving them the tools to safely enjoy and spread the joy for playing outside.   

A little bit of play, a run, a book, or whatever it is that allows an escape, imagination, concocting ideas --- al of it makes us better humans.  I find I smile, I laugh more, I am more patient when I get my daily dose.    





Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yosemite's Red-Headed Step Child.

I limped along a 3 mile semi-trail at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum with my folks.  Dad questioned, "did you really run from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, in one day?"
Mom chuckled at my pace, "are you really that sore?  Finally we are faster than you!"
Yup

That was Sunday, two days after our massive jaunt.

Monday I was northbound again, to Zion!  Libby, who patiently forgave my week hiatus in our plans, was awaiting our next adventure.   Legs still ached but the approaches to the sandstone cliffs in Zion were managable.  "Bobs Big Wall Service," as I affectionately like to call the shuttle busses in Zion, drop you off at the start of your intended route.  I just needed to boogie up 100-200 feet of trail.

Tuesday we goofed our way up Touchstone Wall.   It went rather quick.  I led the first half, then Libby took the lead and we simul-climbed to the top.  She was on-sighting the route.  I think we had a time of just under 3 hours?

Wednesday we wove into the sandstone canyon again.  Climbing was a different movement that felt nice for achy legs.  Familiar with the top of Spaceshot, we simuled the first 3 pitches and Libby scoped out the middle pitches on lead.  We rappelled mid-day.  After a quick regroup, we wandered over to Sheer Lunacy.  Again, I was familiar with the start so I led us up to where Sheer and Moonlight diverge from one another.

 In 2013, Buster Jesick and I successfully climbed Spaceshot, Touchstone and Moonlight before a series of misadventures had us agreeing safety over stupidity.  To climb 4 walls in a day in Zion was still on my bucket list.

Libby took climbing to a stance below Toquerville Tower.  From here I zoomed up an easy long pitch to the base of the goods.  I chose to short fix/aid the 13 variation straight up to the top of the wall.  Our time was great, we felt confident in our gear --- now we just needed to weave the potential crowds on attempt day!

Thursday we ate pizza, drank beer while chatting with our videographer friends Cody and Scottie (http://www.wingatemotion.com/).  Adidas hired them to make a short video on Libby doing her usual badass shit, climbing and nursing.

When Libby and I successfully climbed two routes on El Cap in a day I apologized for our time, as I had a ...um...emergency.  This time our mishaps included a forgotten tag-line at the base of Sheer Lunacy, requiring a quick barefoot run across the river and back.  One failed party passing, "we do don't that here!" regarding speed climbing in Zion.  Two core shot ropes, one we climbed the entirety of Moonlight Buttress.  Oh, and when we rapped Moonlight before climbing it and we passed over a team of 4 women.  It sure is nice to see chica's sending out there!!!

Full Value Friday----

Routes in order:
·        Spaceshot (5.7 C2 IV 800 feet)--2:40
·        Touchstone Wall (5.9 C2 V 820 feet)--2:02
·        Sheer Lunacy (5.9 C2 IV 1100 feet)--3:09
·        Moonlight Buttress (5.8 C1 V 1200 feet)--4:17


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rim2Rim2Rim


North Rim is absolutely stunning.  Chelsea carving upward.   
just keep running and running and running and running.............

It never ceases to amaze how incredible our bodies and minds are.  The capacity for pushing physical and mental challenges is endless!!  For me, physical activity is a gateway for better understanding who I am, what I am capable of, and how I react in the face of adverse conditions.  Managing the internal chatter ---the "I should quit, its too hard, I am bored, I am not challenged, I am too challenged" dialogue that pervades my daily thoughts.

This small glimpse continues to improve me.  When I take the time to listen to the bickering in my head, ponder where it comes from why my first reaction was so, its learning at its finest.  I can transpose fear into motivation.  I can morph anger into compassion.  I keep learning and trying harder not only at other physical endeavors, but in my relationships and in my work.  This mindfulness is hard work.  I still succumb to the "easy" way out--complaining, crying, giving up...but I always regret those moments.  

This spring I put one foot in front of the other for 22,000 feet of elevation gain/loss and about 45 miles.  The Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon took us about 12 hours CTC with stops and snacks and stretching breaks and jaw dropping views.  This endeavor had been on my list for many years but just never a priority.  I find I make many outlandish goals but sometimes struggle with self-accountability.  If I drag a friend in the mix not only do I have someone to learn from, I have someone to keep me from excessive wanderlust.

I mentioned the Grand Canyon to a longtime friend, Chelsea Van Horn, and she said yes! Chelsea is an incredibly capable and dedicated runner and overall athlete.  She was much more reserved and thorough about the whole affair, a little bit nervous about the enormity.  A fair concern and good grounding for me.

 I should do some longer runs, I shouldn't be so caviler with running 22 miles across a gaping crevasse away from our only vehicle in the middle of March with a pending snow storm.  ;)

Chelsea provided much needed training perseverance, which I needed as my IT band had acted up after a mega-run in El Chalten (Patagonia) a few weeks prior.  Every run thereafter I had pretty awful pain during any downhill stretch or after 6 or so miles.  This pain was new to me and quite unwelcome.  We nabbed hobbling a few 10-14 mile days over a three week stretch before I departed on the road.

My March calendar not only had the Grand Canyon mission but some climbing goals with my friend Libby.  Luckily the timing for the two events lined up perfectly.

Thank you both for being flexible with my over-crammed tick list. 
  
Libby and I climbed for a few days before I detoured outside of Sedona to pick Chelsea up.  She flew into Phoenix and hitched a ride north via her father.  Together we drove to a hotel Chelsea had booked just outside the South Rim and in the afternoon scooted to Park to suss out the trail head, parking situation etc.  Libby had run the Grand Canyon a few months prior, so it was awesome to bounce logistical questions of her...and relay to those to Chelsea too.

Use trekking poles, she says.    

Our alarms rang at 330 am.  Bananas consumed, car seat heaters on and to the South Rim trail head we drove.  After a quick bathroom stop, the watches were started just after 4:30am on March 11, 2016.  The dark made negotiating the log steps and steep mule packed divots a little dicey on the ankles.  The cool thing about partnering with Chelsea during this run, is that our fortes are different.  I can bust downhill fairly quickly and I love the lung burn of a steeper uphill  Chelsea on the other hand can set a solid pace on the in-between.  On moderate uphills and moderate downhills this woman runs a steady 8-9 minute mile not matter how long the day!!  I knew I would be pulling her down the first 7 on the South Rim and up the last 5 on the North Rim (as its steeper again).  She would be pulling me most of the mid course, the 8-9 miles of gradual up and gradual down on the North side of the river.

The first 7 miles is a 5000 foot down hill, like running from the top of Longs Peak back to the trail head.

Run a little slower down the hill, you won't loose Chelsea and you will have time to be more precise with your feet.  YOU ARE NOT RACING!!  Cripes, where does that need come from!?  Protect your knee.  Long day.  Its dark out, this portion will go quickly, like it doesn't exist.  There is no pain, it doesn't exist.  Thank God Libby suggested your use trekking poles!  Once you get to river and daylight, it will be like your run just started!   

Once we reached Phantom ranch, we paused for 20 minutes or so to stash layers and food.  Chelsea wasn't feeling exceptional but both of us unwilling to turn around.

Shit, I thought.  I really don't know when I will set aside time to do this again.  I don't want to turn around just yet.  

Thankfully, Chelsea piped in "We would be back to the top before breakfast, lets just run out towards the North Rim as far as we feel, see if I feel any better."

Awesome!  See, I knew she was the perfect gal for this.  No quitting, baby steps.  We can run together and I will distract her with jokes or the views!

Chelsea took over the lead for the first 9 miles or so, we walked any steeper sections initially.  We were in this together!  Next thing you knew a bend in the canyon brought us to a ranger cabin, like 9 miles up the North Rim.  We stashed a half liter of water each that we had run with from Phantom ranch.   Miraculously the spigot had a trickle of water, even though not supposed to be on during yet this season.  We would have been desperately short.  A 10-15 minute stretching and regroup about our progress and we were off.  The scenery became dramatic and the incline increased.  I pushed on ahead of Chelsea, the mind chatter getting louder and louder.  The last 2 miles of the North Rim seemed to take forever.  The trail became snowy and icy...some sections we post holed.  I was ahead of Chelsea, alone in the forest, alone in my thoughts.

Fuck, when is gonna be there?  I can see the trees have changed, the layers in the rock aren't orange sandstone, they are yellow now.  Shit, post holing snow means we are close.  I hope! I hope.

Run some more.

URG.  I want to stop and walk.  Don't stop and walk, it will make it feel longer.  Keep running!  I want to turn around, this is close enough, yea?  You can't turn around now dude, your like 9/10ths the way there!  The top is coming, just keep running. 

The trees broke and a small flat white expanse spread before me.  A sign indicated I now stood on the North Rim.
YES!!!!!!  Ok, snack it up and stretch to stay warm while you wait for Chelsea.  

I listened.  Chelsea arrived 15 minutes later.  I didn't want to ditch her but I was starting to get pretty cold.   I encouraged her to eat and stretch and mentioned my wishes to boogie.  She was on the same page, "No worries, if I stop for too long I probably wouldn't start up again." She said cramming food in her mouth.  

On our way back down we posed for photos once below the snow line.  I took the lead for the steeper portion on the North Rim back to the ranger cabin, refilling our waters.  Chelsea took the reins from the cabin back to Phantom Ranch, pulling my very present IT band down hill fast.  I tucked in behind her.

Don't let her get too far ahead, if you stay with her you can keep this pace, ignore the pain, this is just how it is now--its not forever.  Just make it through this stretch and its a 7 mile hike up hill. HIKE!  that's all you have to do.      

 We arrived at Phantom Ranch at 2pm or so.  I took my shoes off, we both ate and stretched some more.  We shared jokes with a few day hikers from the South Rim.  Mostly we chatted about food and hamburgers and beer.  Motivating to reach the rim before restaurants were closed.

We ran together away from Phantom Ranch and across the bridge.  When the terrain turned upward is when Chelsea and I parted ways.  I turned around often to make sure she was still making upward progress, but chatter took over.

Ok, you can do this.  Hike 20 minute miles.  Push hard, don't look at your watch, phone battery is almost dead.  Don't ask anyone what time it is until you can see the rim.  Jog the flats.   
  
The trail wound upward.  Having little memory of its turns and terrain in the dark only 9 hours earlier, I guessed at distances.  One particular never-ending switch back section had me pouting and huffing.  Daylight was closing down, people were still on the trail but there wasn't a significant teller of how close I actually was to the top.

Seriously.  It has to have been at least and hour, so half way.  Maybe its been half of half, so I am 3/4 the way there...oh I think I remember this spot.  I think it means 20 more minutes and then 20 more minutes and 20 more minutes.  Oh this part is flat, give the old truffle shuffle.  
  
My thoughts were diminished to repeating numbers and rationalizing distances in half of halves in half.  Yea, I don't know.  The swimmer in me deduces everything to minuscule time allotments.  I turned a sharp left and saw the rocky rim to right.  It looked like it could be the actually real South Rim.  I finally asked two men what time it was.  Four o-clock they responded.

YES!!  My timing is right-ish.  I should have less then 2 miles.  That's like Mills Lake to Glacier Gorge Parking lot.  You got this.  Keep hiking, keep pushing.  Can you see Chelsea back there?  

Another flat spot and significantly more people.  My legs ached, my triceps were throbbing (from pushing with the trekking poles so damn hard).  I ran again.  The trail switched back a few times and I could see the top.  I ran the last bit, adrenaline coursing.  

BooM!  A parking lot, people waiting for a bus.  4:30pm.  Just about 12 hours earlier I had stood in this spot with Chelsea in the dark.

Holy!  We did it!  So cool.  I can't believe it.  My legs want to fall off.  Tomorrow is going to hurt. Where is Chelsea?  I hope she finished before dark!  

I wandered around at the top a bit, then found a rocky flat spot that overlooked the entire canyon.  From my stretching rock I also had a view of the last 1/2 mile of the trail.

Oh, that's Chelsea, heck yea!

"FUCK YEA!"  I exclaimed loudly, "CAW CAW!!!"  The person I thought was Chelsea did not acknowledge my calls and waves.

Mmm, ops.  Not Chelsea.  Shit, I hope she is ok.  I wonder if I should wander back down a ways?  

After 30 minutes of stretching and staring down the trail, I finally spotted the real Chelsea and gave her a proper holler.  She proudly jogged the finishing stretches.  We hugged.  We laughed.  We watched people load the bus back to the main parking lot while walking ourselves another mile to our car.  

What an incredible day.  What an incredible partner.  What an incredible thing to do!!   




I like the gear pile photo, seriously I pack like this for big trips to make sure I have it all.  

4:30 start.  We ran the road a mile or 2 to the TH, as we didn't think a bus would be running at this hour  

Chelsea sprinting across the bridge...and the Colorado River!

Daylight and across the river.  

Headed uphill...for the next 13 or so miles.  

North Rim is absolutely stunning.  Chelsea carving upward.   

To the top!  Snowy North Rim.  

Handstand across 'Merica
OH SHIT, we have to go back over there!  

Chelsea heading down hill.  She kept an incredible pace for the downhill 13 (like 8:30/mile)


Stretching it out on a bridge, down hill North Rim 

Took the shoes off and munched stashed snacks at Phantom Ranch.  

North Rim trail.  7 miles, 5000 some feet.  Beautiful in the daylight....long as hell feeling too.  

The beginning of the end.  Chelsea's last view of my ass.  

We got incredibly lucky with weather.  Not too hot, not too sunny and no snow! (it snowed 10 inches the following morning)

Ladies finished the run!  Back to the South Side with daylight to spare!



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Colorado Route, Fitz Roy, Argentina


East Face of Fitz Roy


Mikey and me crossing the glacier
Max ogled over the Patagonia Guidebook photos and descriptions, for more than just the long plane ride south.  Truthfully, he had been dreaming the entire year, since his first trip.  Having familiarity with this mountain range boosts confidence and promotes efficient climbing, giving the illusion these giants mountains are a little more snack size.  Casting upward over untrammeled walls is pleasing but the nervous chatter of my soul craves constant movement over mountain terrain— link-ups and ridge traverses.  When mentioning these ideas to Max, he nodded kindly with a distant gaze, his heart desired to set sail on new terrain.  

Max negotiating the crevase

Our first foray into the mountains brought us into the valley sandwiched by Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.  Tired from the 4 hour approach weaving a terrible broken glacier, we settled into a beach zone beneath our first objective of the trip, De L'S.  Mikey Lukens and myself nestled into our sleeping bag to watch the sun set behind the Torre group.  Max snuggled himself in, telling us stories of obtainable first ascents and taking zoomed photos of the South Face of Fitz Roy.  

Just one day back from a successful mission up the entire West Face of De L'S, via a lay-down start to  Thaws not Holding Wright, we jokingly started a cost-benefit analysis to aid our decision for the next mission.  Weather was holding and incredible.  Max's vision for a new line up the south side of Fitz Roy found itself at the top.   

Racking up.

We were blasting, other were descending. 
Pitch 1
A trip to Southern Patagonia is a grab-bag of emotions.  Turbulent winds confuse my motivation, the sun blares--weakness fully exposed.  Torrential storms douse my ego,  This year, warmer spells liberated the ice clogged granite rifts on the colder south faces.  Wonderful news, in some ways.  Our approach across Glacier Peidras Blancas Superior, on the other hand, was more complicated.  Previous seasons required navigation around significant crevasses once leaving Paso Guillaumet.  Success is largely dependent on personal perspective, not just the weather. 

Two thong-like snow bridges required thoughtful attention.  We trepidatiously weaved our way to a bivy below the East face of Fitz Roy.  In the evening twilight my eyes struggled to appropriately scale the impressive four thousand foot granite monolith towering over our heads.  Our alarm rang at 3am.  Three dampened and already exhausted humans packed in a two person nylon steam room--I mean tent -- initiated a morning dance.  Elbows nudged eyeballs.  Snow packed boots poured over down sleeping bags.  


Max laced his climbing shoes up in firm snow at 6am Thursday morning.  Watching his right leg teeter as his left shoved into a perfect foot jam I thought, “This is one of the easiest starts to a rock climb in the Fitz Roy range I had encountered.”  That absurdity lasted a mere moment.  Flashback of the last twenty-four yours flooded back: slogging up Peidras Negra, jumping unseasonably thin crevasses, late night snuggles in an overpacked hockey locker room, oh and how could I forget simul-soling the 300m 75˚ to 90˚ snice cone just to gain The Brecha?  I snapped back to the sound of Max subtly grunting above.   

Me following the traverse pitch.









I arrived to the second belay before Mikey, and put Max on.  We eyeballed a traverse low, but Max had a vision.  The terrain, while not completely vertical, was difficult to see across.  This mountain, these cracks, this weather my mind wandered.  Hanging from a harness, strapped to the mountain with a three foot tether, my mind exhaled.  Liberated of superfluous chatter.  Max continued worked diligently rightward, while Mikey arrived to share the belay stance.  Eyes blinked, refocusing.  An ecstatic hoot signaled the pitch was over, our clean path was etched a bit further up the infamous peak. 

Mikey on Pitch 6, 7 or 8!




Following this pitch reminded me of the traverse pitch on the Casual Route (Longs Peak), 5.10 instead of 5.7.  Beautiful golden granite knobs and edges and gear just enough.  Not bountiful, just enough to keep you climbing and mindful.  

Looking down pitch 5?









Mikey, Max and I pushed upward.  Our rack was just suffiecingly enough to protect the persistant 3-4 inch gap. The immaculate fissure for which this journey began had finally been reached.  We paper, rock, scissor the next lead block.  Max, reluctant to turn in the lead, did not get to play.  The crack above us split Fitz Roy’s South Face for hundreds of feet.  I was ready to go!!  Mikey expressed the usual unintelligible mumble with minimal eye contact, a high pitched laugh and throw down...paper.  Shit, smothering my rock! 

We all searched for better gear, as we currently were attached to a lone number 4.  A smattering of smaller gear was placed and the number 4 freed up.  Off Mikey went, ascending the persistent baggy fist fissure.  With a single number 3, 4 and 5 on his harness, he boldly continued.  A pod allowed him to place the larger cams and back clean the three.  Roughly 150 feet into his pitch, a flake provided a decent hanging belay magically permitting smaller cams once again.  His next pitch was more of the same boring unclimbed splitter grey granite.  A small wide roof section broke the monotony.  He climbed, he cursed.  He stopped climbing and cursed some more. 
Mikey following above the roof.  

The crack had finally narrowed in width and Mike was trying to save his cams.  He slipped trying to back clean, pulling a nut in the process.  After a brief regroup on both ends, a belay was built and Max and I brought up.  I gawked upwards, thin hands and ring locks led to the left side of a giant roof.  This was our last unknown.  From our camp the day prior we couldn’t see the base, nor could we see the finish to the “line.”  The sun was just beginning to come back around, evening was close.  I climbed the thinning splitter gaining ground and perspective as to what was over the roof.  Above the roof was a killer corner for another two hundred feet.  Crack size varied with two broken parallel crack systems weaving in and out.  Snow and ice chocked much of the corner but because of the variety in crack systems only a few ice jams were necessary.

A few hundred more feet and the angle of the face backed off considerably.  We eventually coiled one of the ropes and all simul-climbed on the other rope.  Ice, snow and rocks compiled the 45 degree foot ball slope to the top of the peak.    

The gang on the summit of Fitz Roy. 
Spooning beneath the summit block the sky illuminated with pastels of sunset, Cerro Torre fending off low clouds along the distant ice cap into neighboring Chile. To the East, the shadow of Chalten Massif lay etched onto the landscape and in the biggest, darkest pyramid of that shadow, lay Fitz Roy’s massive wake.  Sleep came quickly but all dozed lightly, nervous of our precariously exposed location and the swiftness of bad weather.  


Gear sorting after a soggy descent off the mountain.  
Morning blanketed us in blue sky and a few cruxes still ahead.  We first needed to rappel the Franco-Argentine, a time-consuming-rope-snagging mess.  As a party of three we did our best, only snagging the ropes three times!  One for each of us.  Mike jugged a ways up the first stuck line, eventually choosing to cut it.  Max bouldered up some snowy blocks releasing his tangle.  The last snag had me re ascending a waterfall pitch!  Finally we reached the isothermic snow of La Silla in early afternoon.  After a quick brew, we packed up, made the final rappels down The Brecha and trudged a slushy path out on the Peidras Blancas glacier.

Enjoying the Cerro Torre "hot springs"  A moment of relaxing approaching our final mission, The Brass-Parrot Link-up on Desmochada. 











































Thursday, December 22, 2016

Year of the Monkey.


Vacation to the Winds---last year :)  (photo Max Barlerin)
As another year comes to an end, I reflect…with many distractions—-as I do.  I flip through my blog and realize I have started 5-6 writings but failed to finished any!!!  Probably due to a glass a wine being pushed my way or another adventure pulling me out the door.  I have taken some time to personally reflect but have done a piss poor job of sharing, of actually finishing a paragraph or three.  I enjoy writing and strive to put words together in an enjoyable fashion for others.   Complacency comes I think in part because of social media.  We seem to share more but in reality become more distant.  It also comes from stacking my adventures,  I move on too quickly before fulling appreciating the last.  

For my sake, I need to keep trying hard not only at athletics but growing the other facets of my being.  

My goals this year, as per usual, were lofty and jammed packed.  I figured 2016 being the year of the Monkey and me being a Monkey that I better stop lallygagging around and REALLY get after it.  After reminiscing and thumbing through piles of photo, I realize I have had quite a full year!!

In the next few weeks I hope to share a few short blogs regarding the bigger endeavors of the year.  

Coming soon...

Maxito and me on top of Desmochada (Photo Colin Haley)
Establishing a First Ascent on Fitz Roy, The Colorado Route


Running the Rim2Rim2Rim of Grand Canyon

4 walls in Zion with Libby Sauter

Climbing harder 

Honeymoon Project

California with Maxito; Venturi Effect and Tuolumne Link-up

50 Lumpy Pitches day

7 Walls in 7 days in Yosemite with Josie McKee

Sheer Lunacy Red Point

In the meantime....enjoy this video I made years ago....just resurfaced.  :)
(music = Daft Punk!) 



Dancin from Quinn Brett on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

India Part 2: New Terrain.

India: Part 2

Approaching the Mystery Wall

The 3 ladies, nicknamed “Not ready to be Housewives” along with our new friends, finally arrived to our destination.  Five people, 12 packs, 2 crash pads, and 1 driver exploded out of the Toyota Hiace.  I wish they made them in the states p.s.  

Looking back towards the valley and our basecamp

The cliff luring us to this side of the Himachal Pradesh loomed straight over head.  Shoshala was first climbed by a Finnish team a few springs ago.  Their climb, mixed with many bolts, opened a serious of corners and small cracks on the south-center aspect of this spearheaded peak.  Throughout our research it seemed they did not tag the true summit.  Doing so would have required more climbing via a jagged undulating ridge.

Whitney brewing up












Speaking to locals we learned that our mid-October attempt would have limitations.  No water.  The steepening grass tufts and ramps allow no place for water to sit.  Spring snow accumulation allowed for the European team to collect some snow from shaded areas nearby.  We would have no such luck.  Water would have to be transported up.

Two nearby valleys also caught our eyes, the gameshow suspense began.   I was keen to climb, push myself to higher elevations.  This is the Himalayas after all.  Team discussion thickened.  Option number 2, the Mystery Wall, enticed with its name alone!  Sylvia Videl first person climbed the Mystery Wall’s giant granite face.

Still Approaching.  First pitch of climb is the leaning dihedral.
Aiming for the middle of three splitters abov.  

Hugged by pinnacle gendarmes swooping over a vast expanse of landscape, all tucked under a massive hanging glacier and 6000 m summit.  
Another slightly less impressive objective also stirred the conversation, option 3.  Alluring in possibility of stellar camping, running water and route-less peaks.  These peaks much smaller in comparison.  

Door number 1, 2, or 3, what would it be?


With 3 porters, 60 some eggs hard boiled, a head of cabbage, some stinky cheese and an arrangement of dehydrated oats and prepackaged meals we opted for door number 2.  The approach to the Mystery Wall involved a long slog straight up a grassy hillside.  Four hours in, we were forced to do a proper bouldering move to ascend any further.  Dropping our own heavy packs in a semi-flat nook 20 feet up from the boulder problem.  I scurried around hoping for a better bivy site while Whitney cleared a space big enough for our tent.  The porters insisted and angrily attempted the boulder problem refusing to give us the packs until they had ‘finished.’  I finally snagged the pack off the eldest of the three (who was completely exhausted, hungry and thirsty) and passed it up to Crystal.  One of the porters mentioned they hadn’t eaten breakfast, and of course were not carrying any lunch.  Geez!  All quickly rummaged the packs, shoving food and water their direction.  

Quinn on the first pitch.  
The men ate and began their load-free descent.  They would return in 9 days to help carry out our kit.  The ladies settled in, discussing our plan for the morning while the sun descended beneath the neighboring snow covered range.   

Essentially, the rest of the approach followed the water carved steep slabs and curvaceous deep waterholes requiring moderate soloing.  We encountered a singular bolt above a 100 foot steep section.  A trace of Sylvia and her gaggle of porters.  Nice, at least we don’t have to down climb that section! 

Our intentions were to climb new routes, hopefully new summits, all alpine style and bivy on route if necessary.  As we approached the light on the face altered the mountains features.  Sylvia’s wall undressed as a sheer, featureless granite sheet.  
My eyes gazed left, towards a pillar leading to the skyline ridge of the mountain.  Vertical climbing to probably difficult ridge climbing sprinkled with snow and ice.  
Crystal scoping out the line.  A splitter in the dihedral. 
At 4000m we carved a tiny bivy spot in scree.  The only flat-ish spot even close to the start of our intended line.  I led the first 70 m pitch, a less than vertical, very dirty right facing dihedral with a wide crack.  Crystal led the second 70 m, a really fun nobby face to another right facing dihedral.  
Whitney led the third rope stretcher.  She made a hard move off the belay, trending leftward to a giant scree covered ledge.  It started to graupel.  Crystal and I followed the pitch, then scurried further up the ledge to check out the corner we had been eyeing.  

Was it really a crack?  

Heavy clouds teased us, swooping about, we barely caught a glimpse.  
Splitter!  It looked really good.  

We retreated to Whitney, cautiously poking around for a proper rappel anchor.  The ground white with tiny ball bearings of precipitation.  Finally, a purple camelot and number 2 ball-nut found their home.  Crystal descended first, her rope shifted causing a basketball sized boulder to tumble onto her knee.  

Trying to find an reasonable anchor.  Graupel accumulating.  


Bivy at the base of the climb.
Again we slept at the base.  Sunrise brought crisp mountain air, a thick blanket of dew and a weather forecast of clear skies for only one more day.  We estimated at least 5 more new pitches to gain the ridge.  Scale of the upper mountain was hard to gauge.  Whitney and I were left to continue upwards as a pair.  Crystal’s knee was stiff and swollen, she was out. 

Descending was a difficult decision in blue skies, but staying together as a team was important.  Arriving to our tent lower down valley, we drank the remaining whiskey.  The following morning we opted to hike our gear, days earlier than scheduled departure with the porters.  A snow storm swirled in the following day, easing our decision to bail.  I found myself discouraged.   

The snow storm.  Glad we descended.  Mystery Wall, the lower left pink face, our pillar edges the left of the wall.

Days passed.  With new snow accumulation, we hoped snow would be available to melt, in addition to the 25 liters our porters would carry to our original destination, Shoshala.  We estimated a 5-6 day mission.  

Shoshala 
Departing in good spirits, water slowly seeped from the porters backpacks.  Straight out of town we ascended thick grassy slopes to find a few hours later another tiny perch with outstanding views.  
  
The next day we rallied early.  Crystal climbed the breakfast pitch.  A beautiful and clean V- slot led her to a perfect hand-sized splitter on the left.  This pitch finished with a 10 foot section of perfect number 5 Camelot to a bushy mantel, 5.10+.  I headed up another perfect hand sized splitter to another smaller nest of grass, 5.9.  Pace slowed on the third, as the now finger crack was brimming with bushes and tufts of grass.  Whitney cleaned, tufts of dirt spewing over the three of us.  She retreated, Crystal headed up and wrestled a giant bush mid-pitch.  

We giggled, inappropriate jokes abound.  
First Pitch.  


The sun quickly arched over us, decent back to camp was upon us.  The following day we jummared to the base of pitch 3.  I took over, cleaning only enough to aid my way up the crack.  The crack began to taper but so did the angle.  I free climbed above tiny wires to another bushy stance.  We needed to continue upward momentum.  Crystal followed quickly, I belayed her as she blast off on pitch four.  Whitney mini traction the third pitch and attempted to clean a bit more, a now climbable finger crack at 5.11.   
Swapping leads upwards 3-4 more pitches brought us clean cracks again.  Unique and varied climbing, bushy mantels, lay backs, underclings, fist cracks, and a dash of heady slab moves.  Day three we had reached a steep mid-mountain grassy knoll.  
Pitch 3, Housewife cleaning.  All that remains is the green bush. 

We glanced upward, a myriad of broken cracks and bushy dihedrals confused us.  Daylight was again fading.  Day 4 flurries kept us tent bound.  Sipping tea, we discussed our personal lives and our climbing options.  Day 5 we rallied early but cold temperatures slowed our pace.  Beautiful climbing and good gear quickly ended.  Funky placements and a thick bushy ledge traverse led nowhere.  
This was our last day of food.  Eight excellent pitches with much more mountain to go.  
Defeated we descended the mountain.   

Like most humans in stressful environments, we didn’t always agree, we weren’t on the same eating regimen or sleep schedule, we have different skill-sets and overall priorities.  The dichotomy of external and internal challenges constantly edged us, weather and water issues, strong opinions and fluctuating stoke.  As a group, though, we were able to confidently express our views, earnestly listen, see one another perspective and move on as a collective.  



Still giggling even though calorie deprived and short of a summit.  





We traveled to India “Not ready to be Housewives.”  A joke name with serious undertones of us running from scary unknown terrain of life.  Impending and almost certain adventure-less moments—marriage, babies, or full-time work.  Oh my!  
Hilarious!  As climbers we constantly navigate and seek out difficult unknown terrain with a positive attitude and fervor.  
Ah, how climbing continues to make me a better person.  
We may not have conquered any summits in India but we also haven’t conquered ourselves.  Thank goodness, because I would hate to have already reached the pinnacle. 


Our high point.  Tibet not so far behind us.


***Whitney and Crystal arrived 3 weeks before I and did climb two new routes.  http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15y/newswire-team-authors-new-lines-india-himachal-pradesh

Many thank you's for supporting this expedition GORE-TEX, Petzl, Hyperlight Mountain Gear,
Skratch Labs, Omega Pacific, Mammut,  La Sportiva.