The RV Project

"There Are No Wrong Roads to Anywhere"

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Alpine Stylee- Colorado So Far

Edit: The V7 corner thingy that I couldn’t recall the name of at Guanella Pass is called “Corner Matters.” Four stars, BTW. Also, the arete Alana is pictured on is called the Aspen Arete.

The heat and visual homogeneity of the midwest drives one to seek satisfaction in overindulgence. The endorphin junkie must get a fix, but exercise is too sweaty, or inconvenient, or expensive. The only recourse is stretch receptor activation, an ancient technique that I believe dates back to our hunter-gatherer days wherein one adds as much calorie-dense food to their abdomen as possible without literally busting a gut. The midwest is where dreams of climbing go to shrivel, fester, or immolate (depending on the particular type of scorching heat one encounters).

Upper Chaos Canyon

Colorado, then, is where your psyche actually has trouble keeping up. Do you see all the boulders in Chaos Canyon? Now count them. I’ll wait. Coming from a chosspile like Santa Barbara – where we would climb every section of rock possible and then some out of sheer boredom – one arrives in Rocky Mountain National Park and gets totally overwhelmed by…well, take your pick: the beauty of the scenery, the length and brutality of the hikes, the stunning nature of the lines, the amount of unexplored wilderness, the amount of unclimbed rock in well-established areas, the altitude, the sheer difficulty of so many of the boulders…

And I haven’t even mentioned the Front Range bouldering that sits at the far west end of the Great Plains, places like Carter Lake, Horsetooth Reservoir, Red Feather, and dozens more. Sport climbing, trad climbing, peak bagging…there are dozens of 14ers that are day-trippable from here. Rock stretches from eastern Colorado to the Pacific in a never-ending morass of “how do you want today to be epic?”

This leaves very little room for rest days.

So Vikki and I have been holding down the RV Project fort in a town named after another Fort, that of Collins. We’re not in Boulder, which means we’re not surrounded by the infamous “scene” 24/7. In all seriousness, Colorado has its reputation, and part of it is deserved, but we’ve had nothing but good times out here, finding people to be generally quite congenial. When we first arrived, my old friend Paul Dusatko was there to show us around Wild Basin. Paul’s managing the climbing wall at Miramont, and frankly is doing a bang-up job. On the weekends, he and his lady, the talented Emily Dudley, head for the hills and the sick projects that await. We’ve been doing the same. (I’m sorry, but I don’t have any good photos of these two. Soon, though!)

Jamie Emerson’s guidebook includes Mt. Evans, Upper and Lower Chaos, Emerald Lake, and other bouldering areas in RMNP. So far, we’ve been to the Chaos’s, Emerald, and Mt. Evans Area A. Each spot is enough to spend weeks at. The stone is bullet, and wavy and trippy and beautiful. The climbs are spectacular, and skewed towards the harder grades. It’s as if anything below V5 was included as an afterthought, like someone thought “well, I might come up here with a hypothetical significant other of lesser strength, and he or she will need something to do…” If you can’t climb the grades, though, simply having a day of alpine hiking and boulder tourism will more than reward the long drive and the NPS hassle. Some of these Daniel climbs are plain nuts.

One thing about Colorado: Daniel Woods is just Daniel. And it’s Dave. Not Dave Graham. Who has time for last names with so much to explore?

One day, on our way to explore more Daniel Graham climbs, we got shuttled pretty badly. You see, there is a road that goes into the heart of the park, and the parking lots tend to fill up. If one does not arrive promptly, one must park in a satellite lot and take a shuttle provided by the nature wing of your federal government. This leads to delay and frustration, but Vikki and I were lucky enough to encounter a trio of former Portlandians named Jered, Rachel and Alana. Riding the interminable bus, we made friends and have been going out with them ever since. We’ve found, in general, that the climbers we talk to are very welcoming.

Then there are some who throw their trash among the boulders and don’t brush their tick marks, but hey, what can you do? Besides pick up after them.

Anyway, I can tell that this post is very disjointed and unfocused, but in so being it reflects our first month in this square state quite accurately. We have been utterly floored by the outdoor recreation possibilities here, and after our time in the red states it feels even more like heaven than it should. Will Wolcott (whom you might remember from our Gunks portion of the trip, or as the topdogger in TRTG) summarized it best when he wrote “Rocky Mount bouldering: Okay, I see what the fuss is about.”

There’s tons of other news to share, but right now we’re gearing up for a day at Lincoln Lake. We can’t wait, and we’ll report back with A/V proof of our visit.

Here’s some photos:

Adam Healy psyched on The Example (V2) in Upper Chaos

Vikki reaching the top of The Example (V2)

She looks calm, but she’s freakin’ out.

Rachel Belschner working her way to the top of The Example (V2)

Jered shooting photos. Note awesome geology in the background.

Vikki warming up on the Meadow Boulder in Upper Chaos. Sorry for the yard sale.

Will Wolcott floating some V8 thing at Guanella Pass

Adam Healy, providing the best spot ever. Moments before Vikki sustained a (non-serious) head wound.

Vikki making moves up a V7 thing, the name of which I forget.

Rachel Belschner on the V7 dihedral thing.

Alana Kambury on some arete at Guanella Pass

Adam Healy on the famous Dali (V8). Only Jered sent this one.

I mean, who wouldn’t be psyched? Look around!

Will Wolcott on the first move of Bierstadt (V10)

This is my try hard face. Attempting Bierstadt (V10)

Climbing Ranger Adam Baxter casually tops out Tommy’s Arete (V7). Yes, there are climbing rangers. This is the other way to get paid to climb, I guess.

Me and V on the hike out after another awesome day…Estes Park in the background

A Bit of Catch-Up

I started this post on Sunday. It was Spenser’s birthday and we were both catatonic from stress, unable to celebrate as we should be. Birthdays are difficult, I find you often end up doing what everyone else wants to do rather than what you want to do. Yes, it’s your birthday and you can cry if you want to, but you are essentially bringing everyone down with you when you do. So, forget it. Spenser had tweaked his neck bouldering last week and was not in the mood to celebrate. Neither of us were in the mood to start dealing with all the nagging pieces we still have left over from the original RV Project: mostly, selling Ernie and finding our new home. The trailer is on Craigslist and RV Trader, no bites so far and it’s exactly half way through the month of July…but I don’t really want to start thinking about that yet. I decided to go back in time and debrief about our long, straight, and steamy road to Colorado (and not steamy in a good way).

Alright, forget about Colorado for a second and back to New York we go… During our time at the Gunks, I climbed higher and got more exposure than I ever thought I would be comfortable with. Despite all this, living in the back of the truck with thunderstorms taking us off the rocks every afternoon and the chigger larvae infestation under my skin had started to get the best of me. I needed a hot shower, I needed to scrub my body. I now know that unlike ticks (to which they are related), chiggers are sensitive to showering and will fall off with a  slight scrubbing…if only I was close to a shower at the time. After whining to some locals, I was told that clear nail polish (or any nail polish, clear is just preferred for aesthetic reasons) painted over the bite should suffocate the chigger and stop the feeding cycle when you are unable to get to a shower. For next time…

We had extended our stay at the Gunks following multiple miscommunications with Edinburgh RV in Indiana, where Ernie was getting repaired after our run-in with an abandoned house lead to a leaky roof. Sadly, Edinburgh RV and we did not see eye-to-eye. We dropped the trailer off in the end of May, before we started our East Coast adventures. Although I will attest that I was very clear about us wanting to start the repairs, I still felt badly when Bill at the service department received the burden of my frustrations with life in New York on June 11, when he informed me that our trailer repairs had not yet begun. After sternly reminding him that he was holding our home hostage, our trailer was to be at least road-ready the next day. We would still need to deal with the awning repair when we arrived in Colorado, but we couldn’t wait any longer!

Our arrival to New Paltz, the town closest to the Shawangunk Ridge.

First day of bouldering. Murph showing us a Gunks classic, Black Boulder Problem. This fun slope-y V5 is best in cooler conditions, but still fun to struggle on in the wicked humidity!

Will compressing his way to glory on The Buddha, V7.

Vikki getting some elevation following Travis up Moonlight (5.6), a chill trad climb with a spicy, highly exposed crux on the second pitch.

Will, Travis, and Vikki hiding out from a typical Gunks summer afternoon thunderstorm.

As Spenser mentioned, we left the Gunks on Tuesday, June 12 and started the drive to the Byronian’s hometown. We wanted to break up the drive through Pennsylvania and had an unexpedectedly incredible day bouldering at Hunter’s Rocks. We were more than tempted to stay, but were also antsy to get Indiana, pick up our trailer and get our clammy bodies to Colorado. We decided to leave bouldering bliss and continue west.

When we arrived in Bloomington the next day, we were greeted by Byron and the three goldens. Byron’s parents were traveling in Europe at the time, so we received VIP treatment on steroids, even sleeping in the gigantic bed that is in the master bedroom. Our Bloomington visit was quick, Colorado was calling to us. My favorite moment was being able to spend some time at the city Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Traveling across the county, I have learned to appreciate when I can get fresh, reasonably priced produce. Anyone who has lived in the Bay Area can relate to my disappointment that there is not a Berkeley Bowl in every city.

Blooms at the Bloomginton Farmer’s Market.

A cute boy gets down to some funky acoustic beats.

A million peaches…well, at last forty peaches.

A young Amish girl on her way back to her family’s vegetable and fruit stand.

One of the many Amish farmers looking to sell their beautiful (and tasty) bounty.

Staying in the Wolter estate was luxurious, making Spenser and I restless with a  constant battle between giving into the comfort or fighting it. Brad and the rest of the Colorado Boys were still psyched for us to arrive, or at least still said they wanted us there, so we figured we need to get there as soon as possible – just in case they changed their minds! We also still had to drive through Missouri, visit my Aunt and Uncle in Columbia, and survive through Kansas before finally settling in Fort Collins.

We left for Missouri on Monday the 18th and drove straight to St. Louis. We had a big Missouri mission prior to arriving in Columbia: City Museum. Will Wolcott opened Spenser’s, and then my, eyes to this glorious playground for kids of all ages, filled with twists, turns, tunnels, and a giant ball pit (but don’t get too excited, the ball bit is only a few feet deep, leading to bleeding elbow on my part).

Now entering St. Louis. What gave it away? 😉

Vikki entering one of the many tunnels, mostly child-size…but we squeezed Spenser in there, albeit uncomfortably.

A hall of mirrors.

Crawling in the sky. Can you believe this is in a museum?!

This picture is from a school bus that is hanging off the City Museum building. You can see the giant ball pit…but beware of it’s depth!

A few hours at City Museum is not enough, one could explore the entire day. After a quick work out pit stop at the local gym, Upper Limits, we were off to Columbia. I was excited and extremely nervous, I hadn’t seen my Aunt and Uncle since 2007 and I hadn’t been back to Columbia since my parents and I moved to San Diego in 1998. Not to mention, apprehensiveness from my perpetual need for family approval. My family is small, my Aunt & Uncle’s opinion of what I’m doing means a lot to me, I can’t help it. I was confident they would love Spenser, but I just wasn’t as sure they approved of my current lifestyle choices. Thankfully, they do. Who knew Ukranian immigrants could be so progressive!

In the past 13 years, Columbia grew from a small town to a population of over 100,000 and exhibits characteristics I never imagined it would, such as rampant crime and severely segregated neighborhoods. We were able Ernie in my Aunt & Uncle’s neighborhood, luckily the streets were wide enough. Although, an unhappy neighbor called the cops on us after about a day and we were forced to move the trailer…down the street. Even though we arrived late in the evening, my Aunt Olga and Uncle Slava greeted us with open arms and a stovetop covered with a three-course meal.

Taking a drive down memory lane and checking out my old haunts (which consisted of school, the mall, and the library) with my Aunt Olga (featured here), Uncle Slava, and Spenser.

The house that I grew up in, 1315 English Drive. The tree in the front yard is much larger than I remember it…

Echo keeping an eye on Spenser, and licking his lips… Good he has that muzzle on…

We were fed incredibly well with my favorites from childhood, including caviar. Mmmm… Yes, I am Eastern European.

Roasted peppers with a glass of white wine. Perfecto!

Trying to get Echo to smile for the family photo.

Quick family photo before we hit the road to Colorado.

After a few days in Missouri, we were completely stir crazy. My Aunt and Uncle had provided us with copious amounts of food, great conversation, and non-stop love, but…no climbing!! Colorado was in our sights as we left Columbia and headed towards Kansas. We had passed through most of the midwest without getting any bar-b-que and we had had it. Oklahoma Joe’s stuck out like a sore thumb on the screen of my Android as I googled places to eat in Kansas City. It’s a bbq joint inside of a gas station and it was ranked as one of the top 13 places to eat before you die, per Anthony Bourdain. It was lick-your-plate-after-ordering-double amazing.

Then there was the drive through Kansas. You might as well call it the sideshow state for it’s many signed stops along I-70 that pique your curiosity just enough. Do you really want to see the world’s largest prairie dog? We decided to skip that one, but made a couple of other noteworthy stops.

First stop was the Wonder Tower in Genoa, KS. The less famous Genoa of the world, but we can tell it had it’s hey-day before the interstates came and took most of the traffic away. As we entered the tower, we were greeted by Jerry, the owner for the past 50 years. Jerry is a joke-telling lovely old man who made us giggle sheepishly as he made us guess the use for random antique after random antique. Jerry and the tower are worth the dollar entrance fee, no doubt.

An old sideshow attraction, the Wonder Tower.

1n 1926, when the tower was built on the highest point between Denver and New York, you could see six states from the top of the tower. The sign still remains…

A two-headed calf greets you in the first of many rooms.

Spenser browsing…there was too much to look at!

Although the sign remains, you can no longer see six states from the top of the tower. Still, the hike up the rickety stairs is worth the thrill alone. It was also windy.

One of the twelve or thirteen rooms filled with oddities.

Next stop: Mushroom Rock State Park, the smallest state park in Kansas.

Mushroom Rock State Park is surround by grassland. Oh, and cows.

It’s a really small park. There are only about 3 of the very cool don’t-know-how-they’re-still-standing mushroom rock formations.

Vikki crawling out of a hole in a non-mushroom rock formation.

Vikki here to showcase how tall one the main mushroom rock formation is. She is a little over 5 feet tall.

Spenser bouldering in Kansas!

We found this cool looking lizard in the grass. Anyone know what it is?!

The rock is incredibly soft, as shown by the many people who have left their mark.

Spenser gearing up for a dyno at sunset.

As the sun set, we left Mushroom Rock State Park and continued on the I-70 through Kansas.

Before you enter Colorado, the last unnecessary sight to see is the largest Van-Gogh replica in the world in Goodland, Kansas.

There it is. The largest Van Gogh replica in the world. But, you have to ask yourself…why?

Finally…we’re in Colorado! We made it just in time to be able to join Brad, Adam, Bob, and the Sender Crew in Vedauwoo and kick off this new chapter of the road trip. Recreational Versatility Project. BAM!

For the rest of the photos, check out our Facebook page or Flickr.

An Interview With Shadow Ayala, and the First Ascent of Banksy

I first met Shadow Ayala at Black Sheep Coffee in Bishop, CA a couple of seasons ago. I would see him occasionally, either working on his computer or climbing on my computer in one of his many Dead Point Magazine videos. I was curious as to what this character’s story might be. At the same time, I was apprehensive due to the fact that he, apparently voluntarily, had removed his eyebrows and replaced them with blue flames. I suspect that my initial reaction to Shadow – a blend of curiosity and judgmental uneasiness– is similar to that of many other people. By the end of our stay in the Red I would learn that, in a beautifully unscripted manner, Shadow wants it that way.

As I began to spend more time in Bishop, we would cross paths more often and eventually begin to chat. I learned that he was psyched on first ascents, and rarely bouldered on anything in a guidebook. His Pretty Lights-laced movies catalogue many days spent searching out new stone in the Tablelands, and speak to his drive to explore his world further and deeper than most are willing to go. When I last saw him at Black Sheep, he was showing me photos of gargantuan virgin boulders in the White Mountains, across the Owens River Valley from the more popular Buttermilks.

No caption needed for this one.

Fast forward to May 2012. Vikki and I run into Shadow on a warm Saturday at Drive-By Crag in the Red River Gorge, KY. He had just driven from Bishop, and his trusty pal Sumo (pure-bred Tchik-Maggnitt) was in tow as always. During the next couple of weeks, Vikki and I would become friends with Shadow, and we would run laps on classic RRG jughauls for training. One day, he excitedly showed us a project he was bolting at a popular sector called The Gallery. We followed him out and filmed the ascent.

Shadow bolting his new route Banksy. The white dots are where the bolts go.

Shadow found a plum in the picked-over Gallery, and that’s a testament to his never-resting eye for development. That he blends seamlessly into whatever climbing hangout he visits is easy to see, but I wanted to learn more about how this Basque-bred character (his birth name is Sombra, which means Shadow) chose the nomad lifestyle, and how it works for him. I sat down with him in the Pilgrim over a couple of beers. (Shadow barely drinks, so the beers were for me.)

When you finish the interview, check out Shadow’s Free Coffee Trick!

Spenser: How long have you been living on the road?

Shadow: I sort of ran away from the city. I went from city to city for a while, and I OD’d on the city, and ran away. I found rock climbing while I was in Atlanta. Let’s see, we’re in 2012? I left Atlanta in 2009.

S: Have you only been climbing for a few years?

Sh: I’ve sort of gone back and forth between music and climbing. It’s sort of this balance, this equilibrium with city living and music making, and climbing and being in the mountains, that kind of thing. I’ve always had a duality in life, in that sense, either one way or the opposite way. When I went head first into music, I equally had that reaction to climbing when I found it.     Read more…

Just Like The Pros- On Set With Bob Scarpelli and Peter Mortimer

[I’m trying something new, posting the photos at the end of the article. Check-m-out.]

I’m not going to start this blog post by apologizing for not updating. We’ve been busy with logistics and if you have a problem with that then we can fight to the death by the fires of Colorado. Which is where we are, and where we will be for several weeks. We even moved into a house! The RV (Residential Versatility) Project continues, and despite the record highs in Fort Collins, we couldn’t be happier to be in the epicenter of USA Climbing, which everyone knows is not Capen Park, Missouri. The Front Range is to the climbing scene what Hollywood is for the celebrity rehab scene.

Bullsh*t Lowball Choss

Cliffband bouldering at its worst. Chossy, lowball, chossy, and humid. And chossy.

Case in point: We dropped the trailer in Brad’s driveway on Saturday. (Remember Brad, the chiseled hand-stand-walking offwidth master with laser-eyes, whom we met in Hueco?) On Sunday morning, we drove an hour north to Vedauwoo, WY to meet Pete, Bob, Nick and Becca.

Pete is Peter Mortimer, who, along with Nick Rosen, runs Sender Films. Becca is a Sender employee until the fall semester at USC rolls around. The three Sender folks were filming for this year’s Reel Rock tour, specifically for a segment about off-width climbing. Brad had told them about the RV Project crew, and luckily for us, Sender was happy to have us along.

Bob is Bob Scarpelli. We met him in the parking lot. He is 63, and conjures up a shorn version of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, except his skin tone doesn’t come from a spray bottle. Bob has been been climbing in Vedauwoo since around 1968. To call him a “local” is to call Yo-Yo Ma a musician. Bob is the Wizard of Wide, a legend, a pillar of ethics and a respected all-round badass. He did scary wide first ascents before big cams mitigated the scary. He looks like the sort of person who could do Dominik Hasek’s job in his underwear. There is even a SuperTopo thread about how rad he is.

Read more…

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