Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We spent the last week climbing around the Tucson area.  We just can't get enough of this awesome weather.  Although a 'cold' front has moved in, so the last few days have been a bit chilly, with highs in the the low teens (celsius).  Yeah, it's rough.

We spent a couple of days doing some single pitch sport and trad climbing at Mount Lemmon, which is literally just outside the city of Tucson.  Here I am pulling the roof on the East Face, 5.10, of the Hitchcock Pinnacle, with Tucson in the background.

Kristal's parents once again joined while we were at Mount Lemmon.  Here is Lorraine nervously standing atop Hitchcock Pinnacle.

And here is a shot of the moon rising, taken from our campsite.

We also spent a day bouldering on the other side of the city, at a great local spot called Gates Pass.  From there we decided that Cochise Stronghold was worth a return trip before we headed to California.  We climbed two more excellent long routes, both mostly bolted and both in the 5.10a/b range.  The first was The Peacemaker, 7 pitches, 750 feet, which went up the slightly slabby Sheepshead dome, on the left of the picture below.

It was a great climb, and quite sustained for the grade, with more than a few thin slab moves.  Here's Kristal coming up to the anchors on the fourth pitch.

We also climbed Endgame, 5 pitches, 600 feet, up the End Pinnacle of The Rockfellow Domes. The base of the climb was well shaded and pretty chilly, so we built a small fire so Kristal wouldn't freeze to death while I led the first pitch.

That climb itself was awesome, but the conditions were not.  The breeze was pretty mild when we started, but by the time we were at the last pitch, which climbed up a gap between the main formation and the end pinnacle, the wind was howling.  Despite the climbing being only 5.8, I have never felt more insecure while leading.  I had to stop several times and just hug the rock, for fear that I would be blown right off.  Thoroughly unpleasant.

Between these two climbs, we took another rest day and enjoyed a hike through the area, which offered some more great scenery...

... and more awesome desert plants.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rest Days

We took a couple of rest days after climbing at Cochise, to recover from the long climbs and spend some time touring the area.  First up was a stop at the infamous town of Tombstone, which is only half an hour away.  I was pretty excited to see some authentic buildings and artifacts from the period.  What a dissappointment!  It is unfortunately mostly filled with privately run tourist traps, and though I'm sure there are interesting things to see in some of them, we weren't in the mood to fork over the money.  The whole place reeked of tackyness.  I was so bummed I didn't take a single picture.

Next up we went to Chiricahua National Monument, which is chock full of awesome pinnacles.

Sadly, climbing is not allowed, which made our hike feel like torture.  It seemed around every corner would be another another collection of awesome granite towers that we would of loved to climb.

This one had an awesome, well protect-able, crack running up it.

We had to resign ourselves to scrambling up a few of the short ones.

The views from the trail were also pretty stunning.

This entire area is full of great scenery.  The various mountain ranges are called 'islands in the sky', as they poke out of the relatively flat desert basins, and provide various micro climates supporting a huge variety of life.

I still can't get over how cool the blooms of some of these desert plants are.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Glorious Warmth

We spent the last four days climbing in Cochise Stronghold, just east of Tucson, Arizona.  It has been nothing short of amazing, with excellent climbing and incredible weather.  Here is Kristal hanging out at one of the crags in a tank top and sandals.  That's right, it's the middle of January.  Awesome.

We jumped on a couple of multipitch climbs.  Here is Kristal belaying me on The Wateland, 5.8, 6 pitchs, from an anchor of questionable quality.  Notice the poorly slung chicken head.  Not recommended.

We also climbed Moby Dick, 5.8, 6 pitches, up Whale Dome, named for obvious reasons.

Both of these climbs were stellar, and involved more than a bit of runout and/or terrifying climbing.  On one 100 ft pitch I was able to place four pieces of protection - 1 cam and 3 slung chicken heads.  Thank God the climbing was easy.  More than half of The Wasteland involved super exposed climbing on pretty much nothing but slung chicken heads.  Amazing.

Here is Kristal belaying me up the fifth pitch of Moby Dick.

In addition to the long routes, we did some bouldering and sport cragging. Kristal's parent's are on a road trip of their own, and when we heard from them it turned out they were only half an hour away!  They came over the Cochise, hung out for a couple of days, and we spent a day doing some easy sport climbing together.  It was great to have some other people with us to belay, so that I could get some pictures other than the typical 'butt shot' or 'follow shot'.

Here is Lyle leading Baby Jr. Gets Spanked, 5.6.

And Lorraine cleaning the route, with Kristal giving moral support.

Here is Kristal leading it with Lorraine belaying her.

And again leading OK Corral, 5.7.

There are still a couple of long climbs we'd like to get on here, but it's hard to stay too long with so many other awesome destinations on the horizon.  We'll see what happens after a couple of rest days.  With the forecast calling for warm weather for the next week, it's hard to go wrong no matter what we do.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Enchanted Rock

Our original plan was to spend some time in the south east, maybe a week or so, before heading west.  Unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas.  We managed one day of bouldering at Horse Pens 40 in Alabama, then decided to hit the road before the weather turned sour.  Despite the short visit it was awesome to be climbing on real rock again, after almost a month of being relegated to the gym.

The drive through Louisiana and eastern Texas was interesting, highlighted by a full on blizzard.  Didn't we come south to escape that stuff?  It was obvious the locals were not used to the amount of snow that was falling, as we saw zero snow equipment, and more than a few vehicles in the ditch. Some of the interstates were even shut down, but thankfully none that we were on.

We eventually made it to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, just west of Austin, Texas.  And thankfully on the other side of the eastward moving storm.  Enchanted Rock is a pretty impressive large pink granite dome, and has a variety of climbing on and around it.

Most of the formation consists of pretty low angle slab, which makes it a popular destination for anyone that likes hiking on cool rocks.  If you click on the picture below you can see hordes of people scrambling around on the main dome.

The rock is large crystal granite, which is incredibly sharp.  It was also of pretty varied quality, which meant the occasional crumbling foot holds did not always give us that nice warm fuzzy secure climbing feeling.  Regardless, in the two days we spent at the park we got on some fun routes and problems.

Here is Kristal on the awesome crack, Sweat 5.6.

And again on a cool warm up slab, Dairy Dog V0.

And setting up to pull the mantle on Schmantel Fest V4.

We could have easily stayed longer, but despite the fact that the storm system had moved on, it left some pretty cold weather in it's wake.  We decided to continue west.  Southern Arizona, with it's promise of year round summer, was calling to us.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, New Look, New Trip

New Year

First of all we wish everyone a happy new year!

Kristal spent most of the holidays visiting family out in Alberta.  From what she tells me it sounded like good times were had by all.  I spent Christmas back home on the farm, and had some friends over in Ottawa to celebrate New Years Eve.  Here we are at midnight testing out the smoke detectors in my house, which, incidentally, do work.

We both got some climbing related items as gifts for Christmas.  Kristal recieved a copy of 'Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations' (something we probably should have picked up ourselves before we left last April).  I got a copy of 'The Rock Warriors Way: Mental Training for Climbers', which I'm pretty excited about.  I can't wait to improve my ability to wage war on the rock!

New Look

Over the holidays we also changed the look of the blog a bit and added a map up over on the right.  It's a regular old interactive google map, so you can click and drag to pan, and zoom in and out (assuming of course that it works).  The red circle represents where we currently are, or at least where we were when we last updated the blog.  The green path is the summer trip, the orange path is the fall trip and the blue path will be the current winter trip.  The yellow dots are the climbing destinations we've been to, and you can hover over them to pop up their names.

I also added the ability to comment anonymously, so no more using the old 'you need and account to comment' excuse.

New Trip

We left for this trip yesterday, and it has so far started off with a bit of uncertainty.  Although it is well documented that you may only stay in the United States for six months on any given visit, there is a bit of a gray area, subject to some interpretation by the border guards, on how long you may stay in any given year long period.  The onus is on you, the foreign visitor, to convince said border guards that your intention is not to actually ditch your homeland and become an illegal immigrant.  Saying things like 'We're not exactly sure when we'll be back' probably does not help your cause.

The border guard who handled our case was pretty gruff, and even used the old 'interview them separately to make sure their stories match' tactic to try and poke holes in our ridiculous claim of taking a year off to go rock climbing.  There was a lot of nervous waiting on our part, during which we contemplated what else we might do for the winter if we were denied entry.  Our second plan of visiting New Zealand started to seem like it might have been the better choice.  In the end the he called us up, casually handed us our passports, and simply said 'have fun'.  We were in!