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A rough slideshow from our jaunt to Colorado…

The trip was fast and furious.  If there wasn’t weather striking, there was activity occurring.  PA met CO on many levels.  We saw old PA neighbors in Niwot, and old PA climbing bud in Estes, and we were hard-core chillaxin with good PA friends & climbin partner all while on the front range.  There was something really raw and wild about it all, perhaps the best way to celebrate the 4th of July.

Thed basics were:
– flight delayed from PHL to DEN due to thunderstorms (PHL couldn’t guide an iPod to a docking station on time)
– arrive at Paul & Johannas in Lafayette (it can’t be their house, where’s his truck?…Let’s call him…Yes, it is 1:30am…oh, you sold your truck)
– tasty brunch on Pearl Street before meeting Paul @ 12:30 to climb in Eldo (does anyone in CO work full-time?!)
– 3 Wind Tower routes with Paul & Julie (a quick 700 ft of climbing)
– a morning run up the first flat iron (climbing in my approach shoes informed me that my approach shoes were shot) – quick 1400ft of rock
– a run that afternoon in the Open Space behind Paul’s abode & dinner with Jo and our old PA neighbors, Josh, Amy & Lyla
– 5am rise to do Melvin’s Wheel on Lumpy’s Ridge and start up another route when the darkening storm hail-rained us off the cliff (450+ft)
– saw an old buddy, Mike Drinker from PA, at the base, who we inadvertent dropped a quickdraw on
– randomly decided to hike into a sport area named Ironclad or Ironsides on Rte 7 (great 100ft+ bolt lines and nary a soul with whom to contend) (quick 600ft of rock)
– rest day (some light sport climbing with Julie in Boulder Canyon & picked up a new pair of Approach shoes – Scarpa Crux rock!) (yes, there is poison ivy in Boulder Canyon, Julie’s face proves it)
– 4:30 rise and jet up to RMNP to hike into Hallett Peak and run up Culp-Bossier ***
– kind of anti-climactic climbing up the second buttress – we did it in 5 200ft pitches (quick 1000ft of rock)
– run back to get a bivy permit for Upper Glacier Gorge (score!)
– Happy Hour at the Rock Inn with wheat ales and burgers (why yes, I will take a free beer, thank you)
– Hike out to Spearhead in UGG (wrong turn added 2 miles onto a 6+mi hike) – 10pm and delirious is a great time to stop hiking…Paul. Stop.
– Hiked past dark, past a huge Elk and bivied on a slab with cold Taco Bell in our pillows….here bear, bear, bear…Volcano Burrito, Mr Bear….
– 5am rise to tackle Syke’s Sickle on Spearhead (am I awake or am I dreaming)
– In a delirious state, from the first pitch I dropped a quickdraw and 4 nuts on the glacier and Paul ran around to grab it all (mountain mangoat)
– stellar climbing & a crux pitch to not be forgotten
– double fist jams and a stem with lots of air below the knuts, protected out the wazoo
– tagged the summit and descended in anticipation of 40 marmots partying with the apple fritter I accidentally left in the top of my pack
– miraculously, no marmots and an intact pack (and used wag bag for carryout…taco hell)                                – Burgers, margharitas, tequila and Upslope beer feed the alpine soul quite well
– 4th of July held the summiting of South Arapahoe Peak (~13,800ft) – the highest Julie has ever been!
– Trail run down to a shower and a ‘pool party’ with new and old friends

Thank you mountains, thank you friends and thank you weather for cooperating.

Not too shabby…me likes Colorado


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Anyone who climbs often dreams about extended climbing trips where crisp textured rock is contrasted by bright blue skies. A few months on the road where you live simply, explore beautiful places and climb until your fingerprints are permanently altered. With every passing week you feel like a chamber inside you opens up, surrendering yourself to the journey, the excitement that comes with every new day and the challenges that you might cross (like your first 8a). In time your forearms will battle lactic acid Huriyama-like during 45 minute on-sights, your power will be Sharma-esque and your lead head will be full-on Croft-y.

Unfortunately this is no longer the era of sell your car, drop your lease and tell your girlfriend, “It’s me baby, really. It’s not you, it’s me.”. We have to be more astute these days about how we fit the life-altering climbing adventures into the modern world. Job resumes with employment histories that show a turnover every year or so are generally frowned upon. There aren’t many occupations that allow you the flexibility of being able to take off every once in a while for three weeks to a month, let alone a few months (a tear emerges).


If you were considering sponsorship, well let’s just say in-house development becomes the priority when layoffs and shrinking budgets are becoming the norm. If you worked in the trades, there is a good chance you no longer have a job. If you worked in investment banking there is a good chance you no longer have a job. If you worked for Starbucks, there is a good chance you no longer have a job. But this current period of economic recession just might be the telephone booth you and Clark have been looking for to change into your super-climber gear (picture that great 80s neon and lycra).

Before running off uninformed about why you can do this, let’s quickly cover what a recession is and why they are special. Classically a recession is defined as two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Or as the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) puts it, ‘a significant decline in economic activity lasting more than a few months’. If you’ve been reading the finance headlines you know this is not new. Yet when you look closer you realize that recessions are natural in the economic cycle. Just like forest fires are mother nature’s way of cleaning house, recessions bring a bubble economy back to it’s fundamental support levels. What does that mean? Things often look worse than they are.

Lets look at the basic forecasting tools of a recession: GDP, inverted yield curve and unemployment. Looking at current GDP stats, each quarter has still been higher than than the preceding quarter, though just by a lesser extent. In times of economic turmoil people are not out buying cars, homes and washing machines. Instead they are buying lower ticket items because, face it, the US doesn’t understand how not to go shopping. Retail soft goods and discount markets often weather the storm better than capital goods, and domestic travel becomes preferred to international travel. You’re reading this magazine aren’t you, because you can’ t think of giving it up, especially now.

Let’s not get technical about inverted yield curves and the psycho-social analysis that goes into expectations and consumer confidence. Better to leave that to the dismal science. However, it is a tool forecasters use in investing. Normally we expect returns (the yield) on any given investment to be higher in the long term than the short term. An inverted curve says people are investing in the opposite manner and expecting the short term gain to be higher than the long term, thus a negative future outcome.

In comparing this to a red-point, you get involved with a route because of the probability of you sending the route in the future. Thus the potential to gain more in the long term than in the present. If you are just climbing 5.10, you could probably send a 5.10a/b almost every session and maybe the occasional morphologic 10c/d. But if you want to start bagging easy 5.11 or even break into 5.12 you need to start investing time and energy towards that now. It may mean foregoing the satisfaction of going out and slaying all of the easy 5.10s you can find, but in a short period of time you’ll be blasting through 5.10 and projecting grades harder.

So if this is reversed, and all that invested energy in the future forecasts to give less benefit than now, logic says take the instant benefit. Cha-cha-ching. The lack of instant financial gratification on the market chart vertical should then result in instant satisfaction on the vertical horizon: it is the time to go climbing.


The obvious knee jerk response by anyone with a sense of fiscal responsibility would be, ‘Are you crazy?’; as It is true that it will be more difficult to find work in periods of economic downturn. Unemployment is rising, the labor pool is saturating with qualified candidates, thus the competition for every open position is increasing. If you are really excited about your work or knee-deep in parenthood then maybe this isn’t the right choice for you. But for anyone who is dissatisfied with what they do and lacks any form of ball and chain, this is the perfect exit point.

Many employers are willing to negotiate severance packages that reduce their overhead while basically paying you to take a hike (or a climbing trip). In times of recession individuals often turn to further their education or obtain training in another skill so as to widen their range of possible prospects. Why not kick it off with a month in place with delicious regional cuisine and a square footage of rock per square mile that would make Bishop blush?

Climbers are evolutionary chameleons that are innovative and strategic by nature, this can only aid us in our future employment pursuits. Just like altering your style from sandstone to limestone to gritstone, we must fit our surroundings in the current economy. After your hiatus, return to the job market renewed and pursue what you have yearned to do for years. Span the financial gap by selling your story to a publisher and inspiring others to reach out towards their dreams.

If you want to pick up a new side of the sport or another sport in general, you normally require a solid block of time to be able to learn your way in. Looking to bump your bouldering up two grades, live in a tent and make it happen. Think you have the endurance to put twenty pitches of any consistent grade together in a day, harness yourself a partner and find out. Still have that cherry alpine link-up waiting for an FA, buy a plane ticket and get it before someone else does. Inspired to put up new routes, pick a place where you can live for few dollars a day and develop an area.

Two thousand and nine can be the year you talk about as the year that you fulfilled your climbing dreams. It is projected that, well, projects will get dispatched this year at an unprecedented rate. If 2008 was looked upon as a bad-ass year, with all of the crushing that US climbers did in Europe, Jumbo Love and all of the headpointing that went down, just wait for 2009. You might want to get that pre-order in for Dosage VI, because it’s going to be off the hook.


Possible cons to the situation are navigable, aside from not getting a job for a while when you get back. The US dollar is probably shot to hell from the monetary expansion used to fund the stimulus package, so you will probably be doing DiGiorno and not delivery at your casetta down by Sperlonga. However, other more exotic (code for third world) destinations are close and have a low cost of living (aka cheap eats, treats and sheets) and bountiful concentrations of local climbing. This might be when we start heading south over the boarder and exchanging identification with the guy you share the cactus with while avoiding the coyotes. He might have family not far from El Potrero Chico. There’s always the back-up of sleeping on a friend’s couch when you get back, the stories take at least a month before they get old. And if all else fails, Barack will hook you up with a personalized stimulus package.

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Going Full Circle on Fear


Truly the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.   FDR had his heart in the right place.   And as he faced a country in the grips of the great depression he took the podium and gave a speech meant to be heard by all Americans.  During the campaign Roosevelt was criticized for not divulging his plans for the country that he was aiming to lead.  Not many of his close working relationships, aside from his wife, even knew him that well.   His speeches were buoyant and optimistic, yet solemn as the economic doldrums affected the national demographic.  It seems that these characteristics would have worked against FDR, yet he still triumphed the challenges before succumbing to illness.   Many great things came about from his presidency.

First off, FDR was the only president to serve more than two terms, acting as president for four consecutive terms, though his poor health decided his fate early in his fourth term.   During these terms he created the New Deal, and its vast array of programs, and dealt with World War II.   Legacies such as the Social Security System, the SEC, the FDIC and the National Labor Review Board are the signs of his time spent leading the nation.  His presidency was monumental to say the least.

Today we find ourselves facing a world of eternal challenge and have faithfully elected a president who is capable of greatness.  However, Barack Obama is more often compared to JFK than FDR.  This association is likely due to his energetic and youthful nature, air of sincerity and sense of responsibility that has brought the people together in a time when a leader was desperately needed.  Anyone can be a decider, but few can be a leader.  With the dismal economy and the constant war on terror, Obama seems aligned to take steps that coincide more with the absolute and enduring impact that FDR had on our country.  Assuming all goes well maybe we will get lucky and Obama will have a chance at more than two terms.

To bring this thought on course, it is the lack of fear that Barack shows towards an agenda that has nothing but daunting tasks in its lineup.  The thought alone of what he faces in his daily planner is daunting: stabilize the economy, create 3 million jobs, rekindle respect for the US, nurture the national hope, broker some peace in the world and raise to daughters in an urban environment.  Though, going on a first couple weeks impression, it suggests the right man was chosen for the hardest job in the world and his outlook appears to be that the man is at least as great as the task.  Thus, the only thing that Barack fears, is fear itself.  And maybe another crackberry crash.

Now, to lower the bar to a human level, yet keep with the theme, I look back at some of the situations I have put myself into and the fear I faced.  Now I wonder if it was really just fear.  The first on that list of fearful situations is when I climbed the Nose Route on El Capitan in Yosemite with my friends, Tim Kemple and Dave Hume.  It was twenty three and a half hours of jugging and climbing.  The two rope guns definitely took the lion’s share of the sharp end, but I got my fill as well.  Aiding the Great Roof and bounding through the joyous laybacking of the pancake flake had to be some of the most fun big walling on granite I have ever encountered.  Yet waiting just a handful of pitches above was the last jumar to top out.

Cutting loose from the last belay there is over 3,000 feet of air underneath you that drops away and comes back as up drafts, one of which stole my chalk bag a few pitches earlier.  I felt the knot slide off as I was lay-backing and I watched the bag rise from behind me and get carried off on a breeze.  I never did find it and was entranced by the sack as it danced away on a cloud of its own chalk.  When I saw the movie, American Beauty, the video of the plastic bag dancing brought me right back to that moment in time, the blur of Middle Cathedral standing in the background.

As my hand left the final belay and I started to swing out, a host of thoughts bombarded my mind. First I thought to close my eyes, but my eyes would not close.  Instead they just stared down and around at the abyss that could swallow me at any second.  Then, all of the falls and abuse that the little pink PMI rope ever took catalogued themselves in my brain; I should not be using this cord.  Knowing that over-thinking never solves a situation I just set my feet and started jugging.

Every heave on the rope created a new and stomach twisting creak.  After each upstroke I caught myself staring at the taut rope as it pointed straight up and went over the edge of the capstone above.   Each jerky movement of that free-hanging jumar made the rope drag side to side on the rough granite above.  Was that a core shot I could see or a figment of my glycogen deprived brain.  Honestly I probably should have puked my fear right out and into the void below.   Yet the idea of someone getting killed by a vomit rocket at terminal velocity did not sit well with me.  Also that we had run out of food and water about 10,000 burnt calories before, I doubt anything would have arisen anyway.  To my great relief, the cord held and I made it over the top and then endured one of the most epic walkoffs ever, but that is a whole other story.

So, as you know, I am still here to relay the story. That must mean that the fear, of real and present danger, is still just fear.  If finishing off that route was so inevitably fatal then no one would endeavor to take on equal or greater gauntlets.  When we find ourselves in front of a demanding task that seems greater than ourselves for one reason or another, one only needs to slow down and acknowledge a couple simple truths:

  • We probably would not be there if we could not handle the situation and succeed at the task.
  • Confidence and calmness will aide you as you ready the necessary tools and engage yourself.
  • There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.

As for that little pink cord, that was its last journey.  Not a bad way to finish.  If you are ever in Yosemite, follow the Merced river down to El Portal.  A little past the post office there is a pull out on the left for a great swimming hole.  The rope swing on the tree across the river is where that mighty pink rope makes its last stand.  How it got up there was a whole other story as well, but fear not and go swing on it.

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The Secret

dieselAfter a few tries I finally had a break through with a no-knead dough recipe.  The crumb was not sticky, it rose well and the crust was ideal.  Though there were still no mega fissures that make me think I cracked the code (yes, multilevel pun intended).  I’m going to have to will cracks into the next Boule or at least make some cuts to invite them.  It is the law of attraction, right?  I want a good cracked crust so I shall envision it and it will happen.  Or is it that statistics on the surface tension of baking bread correlated to escaping moisture will probably rule in my favor before long.  My trick was just actually kneading the thing for thirty seconds because somewhere deep inside of me I associate dough with kneading.

Let’s, however, revisit this Law of Attraction thing.  So maybe I am a little late for the bandwagon, though it is thousands of years in the rumbling, but I never really caught on to this secret phenom-hype.  A proper origin in the eyes of modern media seems to be back with the Babylonians, then through every great mind in the last few thousand years before it came back around the turn of the century with Haanel’s The Master Key System.  More currently we have seen the movement that started with What the ^&! Do We Know and, then, The Secret.

This faith system, based on wanting, believing and receiving seems to ride the fence between sacred and silly.  There are few people who would want to believe this more than myself.  That there is a methodology, a practice if you will, about believing so hard in what you want that it eventually, and coincidentally, arrives at your feet.  Whether by mail or by you walking there I do not know.  I do not know because I have not progressed beyond the trailer.  Every alternative media source, including Youtube, seems to have an issue with their version of The Secret.  The strange thing, and I shit you not, is that all the videos lock up after two seconds on the timer.  This happened with almost a dozen efforts at different sources.  Who and/or what does not want me to discover the secret?

It seems that I might have to will the dollars out of my pocket to find out more.  In Borders today I sat down and read a handful of pages and felt that the small, only sold in hardcover according to the sales clerk, book had a repetitive message about asking (politely I would imagine), believing and then receiving.  Does this mean that if I want to go to Cuba with some friends that I can will my ticket and the non-stamping of my visa?  Or does it mean using my AmEx and greasing a couple palms along the way?

Blog after blog had skeptics or hand-over-fist believers.  Anything that carries two extreme sides is definitely worth looking at…I mean take our current bipartisan political system.  Some tout that the hooey is beyond belief and that platinum shovels were hand-forged for this effort, citing all sorts of thoughts and opinions.  My favorite satirical remark was by Emily Yoffe, a contributor for Slate magazine.  She references the fact that The Secret labels Einstein as a master of the secret, and a teacher too.  Yoffe printed a quote from Einstein that did not make it into the film: Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Does this mean falling for the secret is part of our fallible nature or looking by something so simple is the plight of our specie?

Inside of me is the x-files lover of unexplained phenomena that wants to believe.  Does it seem remarkably simple?  Yes.  This is part of why this book is found under the genre: metaphysical; on the shelf next to the fill-in-the-blank self-help series.  But what if it is just a basic strength-of-mind trick that allows us to breakdown unseen barriers and find ourselves in opportunistic situations where we empower ourselves to make a decision that grants us a new opening.  Coincidental or not, we have all had things happen to us that have seemed oddly situated and plucked us out of a negative situation and into the womb of positive.  I have the perfect example.

In the late summer of 2002 I was running a kayaking outfitter in southern New Jersey, yet dating a girl in eastern Ohio who was assistant coaching the Buck Eyes field hockey team.  On a whim I decided to drive out and surprise her for the first game of the season that started at noon the next day.  I left at one a.m. on a ten hour drive.  For the mathematically challenged, this does not leave me with much room for error.  I felt this to be a testament as to my affections, so I drove for four hours and pulled over near Harrisburg for a short road nap.  Awaking to a complete fog that had settled on the highway amidst agricultural fields I attempted to start the car.  No dice.  Not even a small click.  Before falling asleep I forgot to turn the lights off.  Now I would never make my narrow window of time.

Exiting the car gave me no more information.  No mile-markers or highway signs were visible in the two minutes I ran in both directions.  The milk-mustached blonde bombshell on the billboard seemed to taunt me in my predicament.  Inside I almost cracked as I wanted to be there with her so bad, but I could not will the situation any more.  Standing outside of my car, ferrari red Riot Glide on top, hull down, I began to dial AAA for assistance, not sure what I would tell them.  Maybe they could triangulate my position.  Before I could hit send, a Jeep Cherokee emerges from the fog and passes me.  It has three white water boats on top.  Stopping a hundred yards ahead, I soon hear the unmistakable whine of a car backing up a high speed.  The driver was a guy I met almost two years before running my first river in Massachusetts, he was on his way to the Youghiogheny River in western PA.

In five minutes my battery was charged, the car running and we were both on our way.  I still have his business card that he gave me that day.  On the back I wrote, ‘get out of jail free card’.  Never would I forget why.  I had not seen him since I ran the Deerfield two years before and I have not seen him since.

Back in my ride, amp’d by the forces that converged on that six am pea soup on the highway between no where and no where, I drove with purpose.  In the end I did get to see Erin before her first game, arriving wired and ecstatic maybe thirty minutes before the start.  She was truly someone who I wanted to see and something allowed it to happen.

So when I ask myself if I believe, I think I do.  I mean…ahem, I do.  But what I do not believe is in paying that much more for it.  In my life I can say I have met one person who wills things and they happen, a true alpha if I ever met one.  Anyone who has crossed his path knows exactly what I am talking about.  Tim Kemple is a guy that makes things happen.  I have a lot of friends that have prospered and been successful on different paths, but Tim always seemed different.  More mono-focally directed.  Whether or not he believes in the laws of attraction, I do not know.  I have not asked him yet, but I am sure he would talk about it.  If anything, Tim just makes what he wants, because that is the way it should be.

We all have an innate ability to create opportunity.  Just like we all have had some wildly perfect experience that has allowed us to make things happen.  We also all know someone in our lives who was the person you never doubted to obtain that which they put their mind towards.  Putting ourselves on the line more often would reveal this.  If there is something I have learned from climbing rocks it is this: want it, envision it, make it happen.  It is that simple.  So simple I may be able to talk myself out of it, before I realize that I already believe it.

Having now re-convinced myself in the power of positive thinking I will aim to apply it to a handful of goals upon which my focus rests.  Positive thinking will entail doing the proper research, being experimental yet scientific.  Taking logical steps from the intermediate outcomes and trying to always be psyched.  This whole process does not sound like much of a secret, just a lot of work.  But we often find that if the work is towards a goal we want, then it feels a lot less like work.  And when breaks are made in our favor we can look at them as coincidental or predicated by the endeavor we invest.  I am reminded of a quote that an old friend gave me my freshman year of college.  Originally it is attributed to Socrates, but when he gave it to me it was through another source: The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

Right now I would settle for the secret to a great bread.  My own endeavoring got me a $40 enameled cast iron pot that I named Castirona.  I thought I was going to have to throw down two hundred bones for a Le Creuset pot.  Instead I endeavored and the solution appeared.  Now I will endeavor my next crust to appear to crack.