23 March 2014

The Best V9 I've Ever Done

What I meant was the five best V9's I've ever done. These are the climbs I can't stop thinking about. Personally, V9 is my favorite grade in bouldering. Firstly because I have a thing for odd numbers. Secondly, V9 is the level at which I can usually expect success, but have to try hard to achieve it. Not my limit, but challenging nonetheless. I believe I can go anywhere in the world and climb a V9. Except Fontainebleau, I couldn't climb shit there. I don't know, I just love V9's. They're the perfect grade. Anyway, here are my favorite V9's of all-time!!

1. "Luminance" Bishop, California
Huge, beautiful granite block sitting on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Beginning on an obvious start, overhanging with friendly holds, consistently difficult, tall, committing and exciting.

2. "Molunk" Brione Switzerland
Perfect granite edges spaced perfectly apart on gorgeous stone with a flat landing.

3. "Tilt Shift" Red Rocks, Nevada
A tall, free-standing boulder on a red and tan cliffside yielding sandstone rails with a physically challenging, technical intro section leading up to a foot-cutting dyno and a heady mantle.

4. "Heart of Darkness" Yosemite Valley, California
Three huge moves between Yosemite granite edges. (Climber: Dave Mason.)

5. "Nine Lives" Chattanooga, Tennessee
A long, power-endurance climb starting on a jug, moving through crimpy sandstone rails with a middle deadpoint and a casual top-out.

There you have it; my most beloved climbs at the V9 level. I'm open to suggestions of honorable mentions, I'm always looking to fatten up this list...

22 March 2014

The End

It looks like the season of #siegingtheswarm is over in Bishop. I'm watching the weather from Vegas and keeping my fingers crossed for a random cold front to roll through, but as of now I have emotionally checked out. It really wore on me to be so close to sending, and then gradually do worse and worse on it each day that went by. My assumption is that I was so focused on trying this one specific project that I got tunnel vision. I worked the same two moves over and over again for two months and didn't try anything else and it ultimately made me weaker. There were two days where I fell off after the crux; I was doing it! I should have sent! And every time after that I walked up there I felt pressured and anxious that I would blow it or feel off. I got in my own head and psyched myself out. No bueno! I've learned so much through this process. I'm going to have fun climbing again, enjoy living in Las Vegas, maybe train a little, and go back in the fall and give her hell.

26 February 2014


Disclaimer: The following is not positive. It's honest.

I failed today. What else is new, right? It's rock climbing, all we do is fall. Take this as you will but I'm not used to failing. This is my first time projecting something, mostly because I'm impatient. When I want something I want it immediately, anyone who knows me will tell you that. This climb eludes me. I can't have it immediately.

I'm learning a lot through this process, and when I say "I failed" I don't mean physically, because I felt strong today. It was all in my head. I lost my mental game and it shut me out. I used to walk up to this climb ad feel relaxed, refreshed and calm. Now I walk up feeling anxious and overthinking moves.

Time feels like it's fighting against me. I've been in Bishop for over six weeks yet I've had only nine days on the boulder. I keep having to leave town. I come back and get one or two climbing days and then I have to leave again. My season here has been so interrupted I feel like I need to make every single attempt count and when I can't do that I lose it emotionally, I get angry. This climb was something I was initially so inspired by, and excited about and now it's the biggest frustration in my life. Boo hoo, right? Poor pro climber living the life can't get up their boulder problem. But it's more than that. I've invested everything I am in this. It's not "just rock climbing" anymore. It means something to me I can't describe. And failing hurts.

04 February 2014


From today.

"I just pulled up to the parking area. I'm about to head up to try but I feel like I need to get this out now: I have this swelling sense of pride, happiness, and gratitude for so much right now. I feel so supported, by my friends, the community, my sponsors. It's like I have an army of people up there with me even when I'm there alone. It's an amazing feeling that I've never really felt before. I mean, I kind of get it with competitions, but then the weekend is over, and that's it. This is different. This has been weeks of  positive notes, comments and messages; people walking up there with me just so I have some company. My sponsors have been even more supportive than usual, J-Tree made #SiegingTheSwarm stickers, Gnarly made goody bags, Nicros overnighted me PumpRocks when I was feeling weak, Goal Zero hooked me up with a new battery for my rig, and I wouldn't even be here right now without Organic and, of course, The North Face. It's so hard to explain. I feel like Michael Phelps, or Shaun White. Like the whole world is watching and rooting for me as I go into finals at the Olympics. Of course I want to do this climb for me, but now I want to do it for all of you too. Thanks for all the extra motivation, everyone."

on the way

my new lucky charm from Spenser and Vikki @thervproject

#sts sticker

training on the PumpRocks

40% off training fuel

19 January 2014

Day 4

I'm sitting under the boulder right now writing this, thinking not so positive thoughts. It just feels so hard today. Going into this, I knew I would have good days and bad days, but with the way progress was being made so quickly I sort of thought I'd just do it. I thought I would do it today. Instead I saw a regression. I'm frustrated I walked all the way up here. I can't waste precious skin on worthless attempts. The second move is the crux. I've done it. More than once. Today I wasn't even close.
I started out positive, my body felt alright, my skin was good. I was talking to myself before pulling on each time, "You can do this. You can do this." And then I failed miserably, over and over again, on the jump, coming off screaming in anger sometimes. Of course it felt good to scream. Did it make me get any higher? No.
With some mild form of last-ditch optimism I put my shoes on one last time and as I was grabbing the start holds thought, "What are you doing? You can't do this today." And that was that. It was over. I let go of the start holds, sat down, took my shoes off and packed up. Even if physically I could have done the climb today, mentally I had already failed. I had defeated myself.
I can get to the top of this, but anger, frustration and doubt are not going to get me there.
I know better.
I can not let myself be the reason for defeat.

14 January 2014

I Have Arrived.

It's hard to explain the feeling I get stepping out of the trailer in the morning and into the Kmart parking lot and seeing Mt. Basin first thing. Calming seems to be a perfectly cliched way of putting it. But I think it's something more than that. Like it instills this fire in me. Passion maybe? Like I'm here for a reason. I finally have direction.
My brother drove out to California with me to climb and fish for a few days, but he has since flown home and I am here alone. There's a sort of sanctuary in the solitude. I'm sure I'll get lonely at some point, but it's Bishop... There's always someone around.

I enjoy it; life on the road alone. I'm on my own schedule and I go to whatever boulder tickles my fancy at any particular moment.
Right now, though, there's really only one boulder I feel like going to. I've been unexpectedly pleased with how it's been going, especially after losing fitness to rainy days in Font and being stuck in the car for three days.
Of course I was apprehensive towards it. But the last two days have changed that for me. Partly because I did better on it than I was expecting, but also because of this (here we go again) *calming* sensation I have being here.
I've been obsessing over this one climb all year and now I'm finally here. I can relax. All I have to do is do it!
I may not be the strongest I've ever been, but I'm so passionate about these eight moves on perfect patina that I think my motivation will be a huge factor in carrying me however far I get up this thing.
It sounds crazy that something so obscure can feel so helplessly all- encompassing. Why it matters I cannot express in words.
I know I'm going to have good days and bad days. I know I'm going to bleed and scream and maybe even cry. But I know that here, in my sweatpants in my 1950s trailer in the Kmart parking lot surrounded by truckers writing by lantern-light with my BuddyHeater going, is exactly where I want to be.
I don't feel lost anymore.

28 December 2013

The Art of Feeling Stuck

Here I am in one of the most beautiful, famous climbing areas in the world, Fontainebleau, France, and I don't even want to go climbing. What is wrong with me?
I can't shake the feeling that I want to be somewhere else. Actually I've felt this way for the last twelve months.
I feel stuck.
Why do I feel like I'm wasting time? Precious time. I'm not going to be twenty-four forever. What am I doing in all these places when I know I want to be somewhere else?

I think a lot of it had to do with me signing a lease, my first paid-for home base since 2009. That was the beginning of me feeling stuck. It felt nice to have a bedroom, and a kitchen, but no matter where I wanted to go, I never felt like I could go for long. I always felt like I had to return at around the six week mark, because why would you pay for a place to live if you weren't actually going to live in it?
This most definitely, absolutely, does NOT mean that I want to live the #TrailerLife for the rest of eternity. No, I definitely want a place somewhere. But this time, geographically, I think I'm going to make a better choice. But I have some things to do first.

I lost myself a little bit this year, as a climber and as a person. I wanted to do a climb, and it wasn't the right time, I had to wait for winter. I couldn't go, but I didn't want to stay. My relationship to climbing changed. It wasn't fun anymore, it was a chore. So I didn't climb much over the summer, and I sort of let myself go. When fall came and I decided I loved climbing again and it was time to get back in shape, I was kinda chubby (for climbing standards. And me standards.) I had a hard time getting back in shape. But my focus was stemming from thoughts of my project, and I worked hard, knowing I to need to be the strongest I've ever been to do this climb. I completed seven weeks of a nine-week training program, and felt like me again! But I still wasn't heading in the right direction. I went the opposite way, first to the Southeast. It's almost like I'm running from it; I'm intimidated by it. So I did the ultimate flee and left the country.

I'm not saying I haven't appreciated my time in Europe, of course I have. It's just felt more like... killing time. The entire last year, no matter where I've been, I've felt like I was just killing time, desperately wishing I could be working this climb, but it wasn't the right season. I haven't been able to try my hardest, or start any other serious projects, because my heart has  been elsewhere, on a project farther away.

I got this idea in my head that I wanted to do a boulder, and since this idea's conception, I've only been distracted by it. It sounds like the ultimate cliche, I know, but I've become obsessed. It's all I think about, and I regularly dream about it. None of the climbing areas I've been to in the last eight months have been fulfilling. Of course it's been fun! And I've climbed a lot of incredible lines, and even done some hard things. I just can't focus on anything.

The scariest part about it all is now people know about it. I have been vocal about wanting to work on this climb, I've told people and sponsors. Me, I have put all this extra pressure on myself to succeed.

What if I fail?
Trust me, I'm the first one to admit that climbing is 90% failure. I mean look at KJ and TC, five years in on The Dawn Wall, and Angie three years in on Freaks. It's called projecting for a reason! Who cares if I spend months working it and don't do it?
But this one is different. It's become less about disappointing myself. Now there are other people, and companies involved. I need to do it for me. I want to do it for them.
If nobody knew I was working on it, nobody would know if I couldn't do it. But now if I fail, people will know. And that scares the shit out of me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've been feeling trapped.

I want to do this climb and I'm afraid to fail.

The thing I want to do the most I'm running away from.

I come home from Europe in a week and head straight out to this project. I feel this need to be there, working on it, but I'm also very intimidated. I guess we'll see what happens.

Welcome to the art of feeling stuck.

22 December 2013


We have departed the beautiful sunny valleys of Ticino, Switzerland and have entered the rainy lands of Fontainebleau, France! The end of our Swiss trip was fun indeed, but secretly... I prefer sandstone to granite. Please don't tell Yosemite.

 Sasha Turrentine in Chironico

 An incredible V8 called, "Made in Norway"

One of the most amazing climbs I've ever done, "Molunk" V9

Yesterday I climbed in Font for the very first time in my life! It was incredible! The goal here is to climb ten boulders a day, doesn't matter the "difficulty level," which is completely arbitrary here anyway. The boulders are beautiful and it's like running around a playground. So much to do! And I caved and bought the 7's + 8's guidebook so I'm not randomly trying to get off the ground on what I didn't know was a classic V10, with Frenchmen hiding in the bushes laughing, watching me fail.

This amazing V3 I couldn't do...

It's supposed to rain for the next few days, but hopefully the weather clears up, because I'd like to learn how to rock climb before I head home. Christmas and New Year's Eve will be spent in Paris!!

02 December 2013


I thought it would be longer before I returned to Europe, after my experiences in 2011, which were recently exposed in a Rock and Ice article, where I battled loneliness, failure and depression, swearing to myself rashly that I’d never go back.

Maybe the difference this time is I’m not alone; I brought a piece of home with me, in someone who’s known me for over a decade, since I was a gangly, brace-faced pre-teen.

Or maybe it’s the entirely different curriculum I’m following. My last visit was dedicated to competing on the World Cup Circuit, to plastic and rankings. This time I’m in Europe solely for the pleasure of rock climbing, no judges, no points. No real aspirations, honestly, aside from just spending time climbing in an area I’ve never been before.

Of course being here doesn’t come without some anxiety, even though I’m in a completely dissimilar situation from last time. But each day that goes by, I’m reminded that I’m here because I chose to be, because want to be, because I love climbing. And the climbing in Switzerland doesn’t suck.

It’s so beautiful here. We’re in the mountain town of Claro, surrounded by towering white peaks. We go out in the late mornings, after the frost has burned off, and spend the day at either Cresciano or Chironico, two different areas within just twenty minutes of driving. It’s cold, and sometimes starting up is hard, but if we can get good and warm it’s worth it to feel the gratifying slap of sticking to a hold, otherwise un-stick-to-able in higher temperatures.

Some of the climbs here remind me of The Valley, in the way that they’re proud, granite lines, with slightly technical face climbing. As Yosemite is the only other place I’ve climbed on granite in the woods, it’s easy to seek out similarities. Of course, there are characteristics of Colorado bouldering that present themselves here as well. But to be fair to the area, it is its own. It really is different from anywhere I’ve been, but what place isn’t? It has its own qualities, style, scene. Like all areas, there are lines that are gems and lines that are mediocre. The most exciting aspect of Switzerland for me is that it’s new. Everything is new, and therefore by nature is guaranteed to be at least somewhat exciting.

When the sun goes below the mountains and our fingers, freezing, cease to grip holds we head home, knowing, gratefully, that the cabin in which we’re staying will be toasty, a fire already lit by the kind old man and his wife from whom we’re renting. They spoil us.

Our little place is filled with Christmas sweaters and advent calendars, chocolate and wine, movies and laugher. It’s cozy and friendly and for the time being, home.

21 October 2013

Portland: Comp & Clinics

The Portland Boulder Rally.
How I know I'm a performer.
It had been a while since I competed, especially against a field this incredibly stacked to the teens with super strong ladies. I was feeling quite "mehh" during the redpoint round, and just couldn't make my body execute in the way I know it can. I began shaking in my boots a little when time started winding down, and I knew I didn't have enough points to get into finals.
That's the thing about redpoint competitions... You know exactly what everyone else is doing. These types of events are probably more nerve-wracking than onsight comps where you know nothing. With redpoints you know what you have to do to advance, and if it's not happening--things get stressful.
It's also hard to climb with your whole group of friends in a redpoint comp, when your friends are Puccio and Angie Payne. Knocks the confidence a little. We all tried the group thing for the first half hour, and then realized it was NOT the strategy, and our group split fast.
There were two problems that had eluded me the entire three hours. I had watched a dozen girls do them in the first thirty minutes of the comp and just couldn't seem to pull them off.

When the announcement came on that there was only five minutes remaining in the round, I put my scorecard in the pile and waited for my name to be called. When it was my turn, I walked up to the "pink" problem, took a deep breath and said aloud, "Ok. Climb like you know how to f*&%ing climb!" And I executed. While topping out, I whispered, "One down, one to go." Came down and put my card back into the pile for the "green" problem that was right next to it. With a minute left my name was called. I walked up to the start and said "One more, baby, come on!" I felt exhausted, I was so spent. After three hours of climbing, whether I made finals or not came down to this boulder. I stuck the move I that had evaded me, but with six moves left til I was on top, I began to chicken wing. We've all done it, you get to that point where you're so pumped your muscles begin to fail. I fought hard, and chickenwinged my way up that damn boulder and when I was standing on top I straight up celebrated with a loud "woohoo!"

Photo by Tiffany Hensley

The redpoint round ended and I turned in my scorecard, still not confident  I'd even qualify for finals. I secured a backup plan--commentating, and headed to lunch, the crew reunited after the heat of the competition was over. It was a stressful lunch until I got a group text message saying "Congratulations! You are receiving this message because you have qualified for finals at the Portland Boulder Rally! Please show up at..." I had qualified in the 6th, and final, place. I sighed a breath of relief. We had a few hours to rest up, and then--game time.
Because I felt so off during qualifiers, before the finals I put a little Gnarly pick-me-up energy booster in my drink and crossed my fingers that my fatigue and previous chickenwinging wouldn't resurface.
Re-warming up in isolation I still felt pretty bad. But as soon as I went out and the lights and all the eyes in the building were on me... I turned it on. Something about the pressure of the situation, and having people cheering for me... it makes me WANT to show them what I can do. The crowd was psyched, they were so supportive, it was the loudest crowd I've ever heard and I didn't want to let them down. I love the crowd, and interacting with them makes me feel confident. I performed. I performed my way up into third place! I tied with Nina Williams, and instead of combining 3rd and 4th place's prize money, then splitting it-- the event organizers just raised the entire purse!! We both got 3rd place's winnings! I thought that was very, very cool. You can bet I'll be back next year. Let's hope Puccio doesn't show up so it's a fair fight. :)

PCI Clinics
The day after the event, about a dozen pro's stuck around to teach clinics to a bunch of the younger competitors. Personally, I had a two hour private in the morning with Lauren, who has made significant progress since we worked together last year after the comp. It was great so see how far she's come! Then we had our two hour group clinics with all the pro's, where my group worked on momentum. Following that, Carlo Traversi and I had another hour long semi-private where we really got to break down specific movements. I've done a few clinics with Carlo in the past, and think we work really well together, he's a great teacher. We currently posses the power to help in the sculpting of future generations of climbers. This is huge, and we need to do the best we can to pass the torch.