Saturday, November 28, 2009

Red Rocks part 2

Three days of late starts and disappointing amounts of daylight finally motivated me to get up early and do some real climbing. While the route we did only amounts to about 800 feet it provided a very satisfying day.

Black Velvet Canyon, BV Wall on the left

After poring over the guidebooks and rereading the Alpinist profile I knew I wanted to test my mental strength on this trip and hopefully sketch my way up a few of the classics pioneered by the so called Adventure Punks. As we all know they climbed in a style that contrasted sharply with some of the other climbers developing Red Rocks' unique sandstone walls.

The beautiful varnish of the Black Velvet Wall, Rock Warrior tackles more or less the middle of the prominent central shield

The logical first step appears to be Rock Warrior, a wandering face line with thoughtful protection and a handful of bolts. It lies on the left side of the Black Velvet Wall in the beautiful canyon of the same name.

Zach following the first pitch

Climbers on Prince of Darkness

Climbers approaching Fiddler on the Roof

As soon as we spotted the parking area we knew that the walls were probably crawling with climbers but it seemed like we had a good chance to be the only ones lined up for the Rock Warrior. The hike went smoothly, it seemed shorter than I remembered, and soon we were staring up at the wall searching for the first bolt.

Zach leading the second pitch

I was pretty sure that the only bolts I could see belonged to the neighboring route, Sandstone Samurai, an infamously runout big brother of Rock Warrior. Figuring that it would be more obvious from up close I racked up and ran up the initial easy ground. I placed a questionable blue Alien and smeared up the white slab, not entirely trustful of my feet. Still lost, a woman on Prince of Darkness took pity on me and asked if I was looking for the bolt about ten feet to my right. Yes, in fact, I was, thank you. Unfortunately those last few feet were the scariest of the route for me, laughably easy when well protected but rather unnerving twenty meters off the deck.

Zach following pitch three and getting psyched for the next lead

The next lead...

I finally manned up (personed up?) and clipped the shiny metal with a sigh of relief. A few techy moves got me onto the varnished face where I felt more comfortable and managed to find some decent gear. This style of Red Rocks face climbing is so unique and a real pleasure to climb, I had sampled such rock but never for so many pitches in a row.

Self portrait (duh), thanks Blake for the awesome windbreaker!

Zach following pitch 5

Zach wandered up the second pitch with confidence, slowly unraveling the sequence from piece to piece. There was a little chalk on the route (nothing compared to Prince of Darkness) which definitely helped with navigation. Many of the holds seemed impossibly fragile but the majority of those I tested were surprisingly solid. By the third pitch I started to read the rock more easily and found a smooth flow.

Zach leading the sixth and final pitch

The wind picked up and the feet started to hurt but before it got too painful we were at the last station and starting the mechanical process of rapelling. Before long we were back at the base slipping into our tennies and enjoying the sunset.

Another team on Dream of Wild Turkeys

Prince of Darkness

Our route came pretty close to the Prince of Darkness, a route of similar technical difficulty but completely different style. It looks like a lot of fun and I'd like to do it some day but I have to say that there's something much more rewarding about moving confidently far above your protection. Like I said, I'm no hardman. But it was nice, if only briefly, to feel like a warrior.

Red Rocks part 1

My trip to Vegas was pretty spontaneous. In the midst of this spontaneity I completely forgot how popular Thanksgiving is for travelling rock climbers. Our first day out climbing I found a crag pretty close to the road (very close, actually) that might be a good warm up to the longer "trad" climbs I'd like to check out. Unfortunately we did not get much of an alpine start and by the time we arrived at the crags they were swamped with what Zach so affectionately refers to as "Larries."

We managed to get up a couple moderate pitches (both classic) before bailing on the busy scene. In a last ditch effort to climb something I dragged Zach up some boulder problems and then called it a night.

Day two did not see us getting up much earlier but at least we were prepared for the crowds. Or at least we thought so. After much deliberation and scoping of pullouts we settled on First Creek Canyon, specifically the Mysterious Amphitheatre. What this rad little cliff lacks in width it more than makes up for in length. While we only managed the until then average of two pitches per day they were both surprisingly long, clocking in at 170' and 180'. So basically we doubled our climbing output, not bad.

On the hike out we ran into a handful of wild burros. I knew these guys were out there but had never seen them before.

Beyond the climbing I've been enjoying my stay at Zach's humble abode, a one bedroom cottage situated on an impressive half acre somewhere in the Las Vegas sprawl. After several less than satisfying experiences camping in this area it's a relief to have an alternative. Rusty is Zach's Heeler puppy, just another friend with a dog, seems to be in the air this year. While cute, Rusty is unusually suspicious and skittish, after three days he still refuses to get near me. Hopefully with time and exposure to more people he'll lose his fear.

Taking it pretty easy today, if James shows up soon we might get some cragging in. I'm a little tired from yesterday, I guess if I was a real hardman I'd be back on the wall today. Who needs to be a hardman though, I'll settle for Rock Warrior...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just can't stop animating...

Yeah, I'm having a little too much fun. I just had to throw together a few more of these, a lot more to figure out but I'm streamlining the process at least.

Killing time at SEA-TAC, I took the train from Leavenworth this morning and managed to onsight (pretty much) public transit, via bus and the new seattle mono-rail, to the airport.

Feeling Green...

Gym courtesy of Viktor Kramer, beats by Blockhead
Edit: Beginning of vid not so pretty, probably due to excessive downsizing, sorry...

Trippy driving test, song by Express Rising

Jens/fridge video music by Deltron (It's the year 3030...)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Still Motion Experimentation

Last night I started to play with "still-motion," a technique I'd been intrigued by for a while now. Photographer Andrew Kornylak has some inspiring examples at his blog, as does my old Monkey friend Renan Ozturk.

Quicktime (the "pro" version) offers a very simple method of producing these "animations" (lots of parenthesis in this post) through an extrapolation of their slideshow producer. Instead of viewing the slideshow at 3 seconds a "frame" it can be shown at 3 (or 6,10, etc.) frames per second, effectively making a motion picture.

These two shorts are my first experiments so don't expect perfection, the processing is all over the place (experiment...) and the focus is a bit erratic, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised. The audio on the first one is not what I was looking for but see if you can name the source. The second video is bumping a loop troop instrumental, I was too lazy to fade it out so yeah, you'll see.

Smudge is our neighbour's cat and Honcho is Drew's pooch, thanks to my friends for acting silly while I held down the shutter right in their face.

I'm headed to Red Rocks tomorrow morning, I can't wait for sunny sandstone days (and maybe a J-Tree daytrip).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Las Problemas de la Hacienda

Last year John Stordahl dragged me across the river. And I don’t mean he had to convince me, I was already interested in the boulders across from the ‘Sleeping Lady’. I mean that I came pretty close to falling into the frigid waters of the Icicle and big Johnny grabbed my wrist, saving my day if not my life.

He had his eyes set on a line facing upriver that started in a nest of logs deposited during high water. After quite a bit of manual labor we were able to try the moves, only to find that they are ridiculously hard. Not impossible though, Johnny Goicochea recently put this project to rest, along with a host of other lines on this giant boulder.

Cole Allen slaps to the crimp on 'Wild Fire'

Interest in this bloc ebbs and flows along with the river. The season started early this year, however, when Joel Campbell brought along a sturdy ladder and turned the approach into something straight out of the Khumbu Icefall.

While everyone else threw themselves at Stordahl’s project Joel tossed a rope down the immense, downriver-facing slab and commenced scrubbing. A tenuous series of crimps revealed ‘La Hacienda’, the boulder’s namesake problem, a shallow-water solo with a commiting step across to gain the first holds.

The Monkeys relax by the river while Joel gets the slab ready for action

Johnny commits to the probable first ropeless ascent of 'La Hacienda Slab'

Joel high-steps to the top

A month later Johnny G. returned to the project and unlocked the sequence with a previously ignored micro-crimp. ‘Wild Fire’ is this boulders hardest and arguably most beautiful line, unfortunately, chances are pretty good that the future will deposit more driftwood into the start.

Adam takes a lap up 'The Sleeping Lady', one of my all-time favorites

On the backside, beyond ‘La Hacienda’, Stordahl and I had scoped another possible line that would somehow climb into and out of a juggy undercling crack. It looked improbable to start and frightening to finish. After some patient scrubbing Johnny and the boys established ‘Raised Wicked’.

Kyle O. adding a move to 'Raised Wicked'

Kyle on the heady topout

Like many “new” boulders in Leavenworth, there is little doubt that this massive and obvious chunk of stone has been explored in the past. However, I’d be surprised if yesterday’s hardmen, mostly interested in the boulders as a form of practice for their greater goals, managed (or even desired) to drag their way up many of the hardest problems being “put up” today.

Drew Schick going for the Hacienda challenge