The RV Project

"There Are No Wrong Roads to Anywhere"

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Project Spray

We’ve now been in Fort Collins for a bit over two months. Where, indeed, has the time gone? In terms of climbing, it has gone to finding and working projects, while trying to sample as many easy and moderate classics as possible.

The view from The Abyss.

If you take a peek at our Facebook photos, you’ll see some of the places we’ve visited during the summer. Mostly we go alpine bouldering due to the warm weather, though even at 10,000+ feet of elevation the temps have been quite warm, often reaching the mid 70s. Upper Chaos, Lower Chaos, Emerald Lake, Moraine Park, Lincoln Lake, Mt. Evans Area A, The Abyss…the list goes on. Yet we often do the bulk of our climbing in the warmer parts of the day, when the tips still slide around on edges and slopers stay slick.

Since we haven’t had prime conditions, sending projects has been less of a priority. What we ought to do (or should’ve done two months ago) is invest in a couple of lanterns, so that we can stay past dark and exploit the chilly evenings. In other words, we should take a lesson from a particular blog title…but we have been fully enjoying our time meeting and climbing with new friends, exploring areas and shopping for projects.

Climbing, spotting or just relaxing underneath and around the Warm-Up Boulder. A typical weekend morning in Lower Chaos.

Bouldering at one’s limit requires several factors to align properly. One must be in good shape, with proper rest beforehand (the older I get, the more time off I need after training or climbing). One must be warmed up properly, but not yet tired or flash-pumped. Skin must be callused and dry, but not cracked or worn. You need some glucose in your blood, but you don’t want a full belly. I personally countenance large quantities of caffeine, the legal ergogenic drug of choice for most power athletes. It also helps get the “morning glory” moving through the guts, so you can be at your lightest.

Preparing for a hard send starts much earlier than the warmup. It extends backward at least 36 hours from when you pull onto the starting holds, and includes resting, preparing your climbing day’s nutrition, and taking care of skin.

While pushing our personal limits is a high priority for us on this trip, sending is not everything. The benefits of bouldering go far beyond our tick lists. The friends we’ve made, the scenery that surrounds us, the feeling of euphoric exhaustion at the end of the day…these factors are what drive us as much as the satisfaction of succeeding on a particular sequence of moves.

The scenery and the climbing make the hike up to Upper Chaos worthwhile.

That said, both Vikki and I have some projects in mind. Here’s a short list of problems we’d like to do, with a short blurb about each. You can see our 27Crags ticklists here (Vikki) and here (Spenser). Clicking on a link will bring you to a video of that climb.


  • Whispers of Wisdom (V10) at Emerald Lake – This is one of the best boulder problems I’ve ever tried, and it comes in at #7 on Urban Climber’s Top 100. Each move requires your full attention, if not power. In fact, there is likely no single V10 move on the climb, but a series of powerful moves up a very steep prow that ends with a tension-y crux at the lip. Even at the lip, you must make a couple of spicy moves over a landing that is safe but thought-provoking. It ends in a 5.8 glory slab, with a view all the way down the canyon you hiked up. The crux is to climb your sequence perfectly.

Tim working one of the many tough moves on Whispers of Wisdom.

  • Storm Shadow Stand (V10) at Emerald Lake – Despite a broken sidepull, the climb still goes. The moves are fun, and require a big span. This plays to my strengths, squeezing big features. The landing sucks as you’ll hit one of two boulders at the base every time you fall, but who cares…it’s safe and the line is fun.
  • Left El Jorge (V11) at Upper Chaos – This climb revolves around a very long lockoff on a good right hand sidepull and bomber left heel. Nailing the triple bumps after the intro moves is tough, and then you must make a balancy-yet-powerful move to the top. I’ve done all the moves, I just need to link it!

Spenser crimping hard on Left El Jorge with Fernando providing a close spot.

  • Eternia (V11) at Upper Chaos – A sick roof put up by Dave Graham. You follow an awesome seam for 20 feet, with no move harder than about V8. The crux is at the lip. Apparently Graham chucked a dyno for the lip, which, while juggy, overhangs a big dropoff into talus. Subsequent climbers have found a way to turn around and climb the end of the roof feet-first. Once I work out the top section, it should be just a question of climbing the beginning fast enough to have the juice for the last crux. A stunning, and soon-to-be-satisfying, climb.
  • Riddles in the Dark (V10) at Upper Chaos – A couple of hard moves on decent crimps gets you to an easier finishing sequence. The sit, Riddles in the Park (V12) seems beyond me, but the stand is a great climb with a cool sequence. The landing sucks now, though, since the snow melted.

Fernando making the big move on Right El Jorge (V8) look easy.

  • Free Basin (V11) at Wild Basin – I tried this with Tim Rose and Fernando Jiménez during a warm and humid day. The start is tricky and involves a painful toehook, but the rest of the problem climbs very well. Some say Dave Graham chooses some whack starts for his problems, but in this case I must say that it maximizes the moves in the roof.
  • Both Sides of the Spectrum (V12) at Moraine Park – #28 on the UC list, this pure piece of perfect granite is very straightforward. We tried this one warm day, and I was able to slap the sloper. I couldn’t have been further from sticking it had I been wearing mittens. If we stay long enough for some frigidity, I could imagine this problem happening for me, and I’d be psyched!


  • The Kind (V5) at Emerald Lake – #80 on the UC List. Continuously referred to as the best V5 in Colorado, this is a wonderfully powerful problem. Every move is difficult, but not impossible, for me, so this is a good test-piece of my progress in Colorado. I have done every move, but need to stick the big right-hand move out to the first jug. Can’t wait to go back to Emerald for both Spenser and I to send our projects there!
  • Steep Grades, Sharp Curves (V5) at Lincoln Lake – a short, crimpy problem with funky feet. The left hand bump continuously evaded me last session, but I think I’ve figured out what I did wrong (I am not able to keep my right foot on as I bump) and am reasonably confident I will send this our next trip out there.

Rachel working the moves on Autobot (which she just sent this past weekend, go girl!). Jered providing a good, albeit rarely needed, spot down in the pit.

  • Autobot (V5) at Lower Chaos – This one is a mental game for me, but I love the blocky characteristics of this line! I can’t seem to shake the scariness that the fall instills in me, even though there is a rock ramp that follows you through all the difficult moves. Looking forward to going back with a clear and determined mind.
  • Tommy’s Arete (V7) at Lower Chaos – I’ve only worked this route once and it kicked my butt. Even the first move is tricky for me, and the problem only seems to get more difficult (mentally and physically –  it’s a lengthy problem that starts low and ends high with a proper Chaos landing). If I am able to even do all the moves on this problem before we leave Colorado, I will be stoked!

Vikki cranking on the first move of Tommy’s Arete.


The Game

I have driven across the United States of America, around many of its cities and towns, and as of now, halfway back to California. Since buying Bert for the road trip in February of this year, we’ve put about 17,000 miles on him (our diesel fuel bill requires scientific notation).

Since I do about 95% of the driving, I’ve spent a lot of time at the wheel. How much? Well, there is a lot of sitting in the car at stoplights, and an awful lot of cruising on the freeways at 55-60. Let’s just say it averages out to 40 MPH, which is probably nowhere near the actual figure.

17,000 miles ÷ 40 miles/hour = 425 hours

Aside from callused buttcheeks, what those hours have given me is a lot of time to think, listen to various podcasts, surf country/Jesus radio stations, and contemplate vanishing points and how they relate to highway lines. The daily commuter probably spends even more time behind the wheel, unfortunately relegated to a similar or identical path dictated by expedience, rather than refreshed by ever-changing scenery.

Unless navigating to a previously unvisited destination or jockeying with Boston cars, driving doesn’t take much mental exertion besides the minimum spatial awareness required to keep the wheels between the lines, the speedometer needle within acceptable bounds, and the vehicle away from obstacles. This leaves the real thinking structures of the brain free to design solutions to the world’s problems, play tricks with math, construct the perfect imaginary boulder, or blank out. In short, I enjoy driving.

Let’s not romanticize too much, though. Driving gets boring. Games with passengers can be fun, like reading highway signs in different voices. This doesn’t work when your passengers are asleep. Besides, any regular solo commuter will need to entertain him or herself, and you can only listen to so many NPR pledge drives.

My good friends Will and Courtney are also on long-term road-trips. Before that, they lived and worked in the Bay Area, and we’d go on weekend trips to Yosemite or Tahoe. They introduced me to the License Plate Game, and it opened up a whole new world of asphalt meditation. It’s based on the sequential number/letter combinations of California plates, which follow the pattern of 1ABC123. First you find XXXX000. Then, you find XXXX001, then XXXX002 etc. until you reach XXXX999, at which point you have won.

I’ll let Courtney explain the origins:

I played this game with my family when I was a kid in the back of the Astrovan en route to our cabin in Mammoth, as it gave us something to keep us busy so we wouldn’t constantly ask “how much longer” or “are we there yet”.

I know this seems inane, stupid, pointless, and a hundred other adjectives with negative connotations. But if you read this blog, chances are you climb rocks. If you do, I dare you to tell me you don’t pursue entirely personal goals with no tangible payoffs. Then go put your high horse out to pasture.

I have been playing this game for over a year now, and am currently seeking 043. This is a long-term game. And my progress is nothing compared to Will’s:

Read more…

Sometimes I Hate Climbers

I often wear cargo shorts (or cargo pants when it’s cold) to go climbing. This is fairly new for me. Besides the usefulness of always having chapstick at my fingertips, I find that wearing cargo pants makes me a better steward of the environment. Allow me to explain…

Bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park is, as I’ve mentioned before, beautiful and relatively remote. I still remember when the Druids in Bishop were too damn far away to bother with. Now, that 45-minute hike at 6,000 feet sounds like a rest day. Upper Chaos involves about 60 minutes of hiking (after 90 minutes of driving, if you live in the Front Range), with an elevation gain of about 800 feet, just to reach Lake Haiyaha. Then there’s half an hour of talus-hopping to get to your project. Suffice it to say, one does not simply saunter up for an evening session after a full day at the office. This is not your roadside crag like Santa Barbara’s Painted Cave or any of the Yosemite boulders that you can see from your car.

The obvious benefit of this fairly rugged approach, besides stellar cardio conditioning, is that the bouldering areas are near-pristine. Marmots and pikas pop up like prairie dogs, and cavernous holes threaten to swallow brushes, shoes, and climbers. To the north and south are steep, streaked alpine walls containing thousands of unclimbed boulders, a glacier, and some crystal clear alpine lakes. Even without climbing in my life, Moraine Park, Chaos Canyon, and the Emerald Lake boulders are places I would happily visit.

Although people have been bouldering in the park for well over a decade, it is still quite wild. Except for chalk on the boulders, social trails, and some missing vegetation at the base of popular climbs, one would have a hard time knowing that other people had ever been there. Climbing in the park is special, and fairly obviously so.

The amount of micro-trash at each of these areas is astounding. This is why I have taken to wearing cargo pants. There shouldn’t be tape on the ground. Garbage needs to go back with whoever brought it, so that it can follow its destined path to end up in some unscenic, stanky-ass landfill to pollute the groundwater like all good trash. I don’t like the trash there, so I pick it up and stick it in my lower left pocket, the “trash” pocket.

I picked up all this garbage in one day at Emerald Lake. We only visited 5 boulders.

I don’t think most climbers intend to leave garbage. Only some. For example, at Phobos in Lincoln Lake, there were three pieces of tape left near the start of the climb. The tape was clearly thrown five feet to the left of the start into a small alcove. I can’t believe that anyone accidentally left that there.

Of course hikers and others dump trash too (I found a maxipad at Moraine Park). This is, obviously, no excuse for anything. If we’re going to march up our climber shortcut trails and give snarky answers to the “what are those pads” questions because we think we’re better than tourist families, then at least we can act like it and PICK UP OUR DAMN GARBAGE. Bob Banks agrees, and even this hiker agrees.

Another story: sessioning near another party in Upper Chaos, I watched two climbers killing time between attempts by throwing their pistachio shells at each other. Even if they had every intention of picking up after themselves, they would’ve undoubtedly lost many shells to the talus. I found a few shells next to where I was sitting and asked (rhetorically) if it was theirs. “Oh…yeah.” I proceeded to ask if they wouldn’t mind not throwing their trash around the boulders. I must have snapped them out of some kind of daze, because they immediately said “Oh yeah…sorry about that.” There was no argument, which says to me that they knew they were doing something wrong. I don’t like acting like a ranger, but in this case it was apparently needed.

I don’t think we, as climbers, are special. We are users of the park, just like anyone else. We have to pay our fees. We have to bury our poop. We have to pick up after ourselves. We have to not feed the animals. We have to respect other visitors. All of these are basic outdoor stewardship principles, and when people that I consider my colleagues ignore them, I bristle.

I once heard that ethics are defined by what you do when there’s no ranger around. Do you use illegal fishing bait (not sure what that would be but I’m sure there are rules)? Leave your TP because nobody’ll find it anyway? Stash a couple of pads because you’re super lazy (The rangers are wising up at Lincoln Lake and access is NOT a sure thing)? Toss some crumbs to the cute little marmot because what’s the harm? Saw tree branches to open up a boulder? What are your ethics? Just something to think about. These areas are special because you can still get that wilderness experience, that sense of exploration. Stumbling upon a wrapper or a piece of tape is a crappy experience.

I realize that the RV Project is totally spoiled. If this were Stony Point, Flagstaff, Indian Rock, or another such popular crag where non-climbing drinking binges happen often, we couldn’t even walk around barefoot due to the broken glass, used condoms, and lord knows what else. One person picking up trash is a drop in the bucket. But in a place like RMNP, it takes very little to keep an area very close to pristine. Bouldering is only getting more popular, and if we all want the options and opportunities that our forebearers had, then it’s on each of us to internalize an attitude of Leaving No Trace. Pick up trash, pack it out, don’t feed the animals, leave no trace, and I know it’s a lot to ask, but please brush your stupid tick marks when you’re done schralping the proj.

TNT: Bert Gets a Rump Remodel

While I’m here editing the next video, my man is in the backyard nailing and screwing. Don’t worry, I’m not jealous…he’s just putting the finishing touches on Bert’s new storage system. I really like handy organization products. I’ll admit, maybe a little too much. Spenser likes to be organized, just in a I-don’t-want-to-look-like-I’m-trying way, while I love gadgets and gizmos that makes me, I believe, super mega organized. Even though we differ in our modes of organization, Spenser and I could easily agree on this simple plywood storage system for the bed of his big red truck.

Road trip organization at its finest.

Building a storage unit for the bed of the truck was the first step of us getting road-ready once again. I found this handy, albeit incredibly corny, video and all we had to do was adjust the measurements.

An important thing they did not mention in the video is the thickness of the plywood they used. We ended up using 3/4-inch plywood for the frame – we wanted to make sure the frame would be sturdy enough to hold us  since we plan to use it as a bed (with crashpads on top, of course) whenever we will be unable to take the trailer with us. We are on a budget, so we figured we could save some cash and use 1/2-inch plywood for the drawers. A slight issue came up when we couldn’t use the screws we bought to fasten together the 1/2-inch plywood boxes. Spenser ended up cutting small squares from a piece of 2×2 [pictures below] and screwing in one in each corner. Then, he used the extra 3/4-inch plywood to cut the pieces for the dividers for the boxes and provide extra stability (pictured in the 2nd photo below).

Spenser flipping over the main storage compartment with the finished drawers behind him.

The DIY Network (reality TV at its finest) provides a step-by-step guide to building the storage unit, including a list of materials. With that, the video, and the few tips we’ve included, you’re ready to turn your truck bed into a nomadic dirtbag’s dream.

Small pieces of 2×2 screwed into each corner of the drawers.

Putting together the final product.

The smaller boxes fit perfectly! Go Spenser!

Spenser relaxing comfortably – the unit was made to fit his long length!

Side drawers made to fit behind the wheel wells for all our small items like headlamps, a first aid kit, and any other stray items we are sure to accumulate.

The whole thing ended up costing about $130. We had the good fortune that Brad has a ton of tools. A table saw, a skilsaw, a drill, and a screwdriver were pretty much all that we needed. A sander came in handy as well.

We will finish up Bert’s face lift with a new camper shell, once we find a reasonably priced one that fits his rather large frame…

Here’s a time lapse from the build. It’s quite a bit of us Spenser and I just standing there and mulling, but at least it documents the arrival of our new bouldering amigos from the East Coast!

The New Hotness: The Abyss

On Sunday (8/12) we were lucky enough to get a tour of a new area up on Mt. Evans called The Abyss. Rachel, Jered, Adam, and Mordy cruised up the hill with Vikki and I to meet Jon Glassberg and some other climbers, and we hiked in to the boulders.

There’s Abyss lake all the way up there. Alpine sexiness!

The Abyss is named for Abyss Lake, which is near the peak of Mt. Evans and is visible from the talus field. Most of the problems are given a nautical themed name, and by Jon’s approximation there are 80 or so established boulders, all contenders for the highest altitude V_ in the country. I think you end up parking at around 13,000 feet.

The best part is probably the hike. It’s a 20 minute flat (flat!) hike across some pleasant tundra to the top of the talus, and from there you choose your own level of involvement. A few established lines sit atop the hill, and they continue all the way down to the valley floor, where a Lincoln Lake-sized boulder field sits, apparently called The Winds (the hillside we were on is called The Bends). The potential for moderates is enormous, but the development has focused mostly on harder lines. We were able to put up three new problems in a casual afternoon. The rock is similar to Lincoln Lake, mostly solid with a bit of choss and exfoliation. As with most areas, more traffic will help it clean up.

Jon was there filming for an upcoming movie that LT11 will release in about a month. You may have seen the cryptic trailers. Chris Schulte was also there, trying an arete project that looked incredibly fun, somewhat tenuous, and seriously difficult. I couldn’t even start the thing. He also filmed Adam on his two new problems.

The valley floor! SO MANY BOULDERS…

A house-sized boulder on the valley floor.

Can you see Jon filming in the background there? This is a big talus field.

Apparently, the Abyss was discovered several years ago and kept secret. Jon and friends stumbled upon it and started developing, and their crew has put up most of the problems there. He invited us to shoot photos and blog and generally put the place on blast.

That this place would be kept secret is a strange concept for me. The place is all on public land, and with so much else around I’d be surprised to see it crowded. The timing of the film is a little funny, though…it’ll come out right after the road closes for winter. Regardless, there’s been some controversy (guess where) at B3bouldering. Jon Glassberg also posted about it at his blog.

Jered scrubs the top of Adam’s new problem

Jon’s a little easier to find in this one.

We mostly spent the day hiking around, trying a couple of lines that looked good, and gawking at double-digit problems. At the end of the day, I also scrubbed a sweet rail traverse that gradually rises above a terrible landing. It ended up being about V2, and thankfully the topout, shared by Adam’s new problem Scalawag, was quite easy.

The valley looks insane. There are several house-sized boulders in the field, plus the aforementioned gigantic boulder field. We are hoping to spend a couple of days exploring, but it only really makes sense if you were to camp for a night or two. The hike back up the talus would be about 50-60 minutes of pure trudgery.

Chris Schulte climbs, Jackie spots.

Chris making moves up the arete

Chris Schulte near the top of his arete project

Rachel buttstarting Adam’s new problem.

Jackie Hueftle climbs Adam’s new problem

Adam fires his other new rig, Scalawag

Chalking up on Keel Haul.

Spenser climbing Keel Haul

Tried a little HDR here…

Downsizing & Leaving Papi

Today we leave Papi with heavy hearts. Okay, okay, we are moving only 5 miles away and we’re probably going to see our roommate, Adam Papilion, even more than we already do.  Nevertheless, we are a still a little dewy-eyed: the house on Constellation Drive was our first stationary digs since we left on the road trip over 5 months. And…moving is always a hassle.

We ended our tenancy at Adam’s with a grilling feast, followed by a Breaking Bad marathon with pureed banana ice cream in hand (and mouth). It’s dairy-free and incredibly addictive. Like crack. Seriously, try it at your own risk and don’t blame me when you realize you have hit rock bottom after punching the white-haired elderly lady because she took the last bunch of overripe bananas from the sale section at King Soopers.

So we packed up all our personal belongings (which we are very proud to admit fit nicely into the tiny new trailer) and moved into our good friend, and Adam’s heterosexual life-mate, Brad Jackson’s house. Thankfully, Brad has a nice dirt patch on his front lawn where the new trailer fits perfectly.

Our first home in Fort Collins.

Capturing the last sunset at Adam’s house. Not that we’re that sentimental, it was just a gorgeous night.

As I briefly mentioned above, we found the perfect little 10′ trailer, hand-crafted by Bill, an animated tiny-house craftsman from Lafayette, Colorado. Bill was planning on keeping this gem to himself, but life circumstances prevented him from doing so. It’s exactly what we have been looking for, so thank you, Bill, for laying the groundwork for us (and building a way better trailer than we ever could).

After Byron left, Spenser and I knew we needed to downsize and restart. We’re not exactly sure what we want The RV Project to progress to, but we know we want less baggage. The losing of said extra baggage begins with with trading in Ernie, the 30-foot enormity, for the new 10-foot minimalist version (name yet to be decided upon). Over the next few weeks, we will be in construction mode building an elevated bed frame with storage underneath in the new trailer and a storage system in the bed of the truck.

We will be staying at Brad’s during the construction phase of our summer, but he is a busy man with regular training sessions for himself and his clients at Summit Strength Training, while trying to get Colorado Strength & Conditioning up and running with Katie Lyman. Much of his work is done from home, so, we want to get out of his hair as soon as possible. We are psyched to start up the second part of road trip in early-to-mid September depending on weather, but will need a room to stay in until then. If anyone out there has an available room (reasonably) close to the mountains or construction advice for us, drop us a line! 🙂

The old RV Project. Over 53 feet of pedal to the metal…and still not going very fast.

Quite a bit smaller but even more of a baller.

A built-in sink and enough room for a 2-burner stove. A sublime basic kitchen for when the weather gets rough.

A blank canvas for us to build upon.

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