16 November 2012

Honor Among Thieves

So many Yosemite photos and videos to post, but to get the ball rolling here's Kati Peters sending Honor Among Thieves, V9 at Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley! This is also my movie-making debut! :-)

03 November 2012

My Second Greatest Purchase Ever (After Fritz)

It was Halloween night. Everywhere I looked the streets were filled with tiny kitties, cowgirls, and red Angrybirds perusing the neighborhood porches for candy.

Spotting the house number I was looking for, I pulled the van over, got out and headed for the front door, bracing myself in anticipation, worried that the zombie on the porch swing will frightfully spring to life. Peeking in the screen door before knocking I saw one bowl full of Capri Suns and another bowl full of rubber duckies. Original, I thought. I rapped my knuckles on the door.

"Hi, I'm Alex, I called about your Craigslist ad," I introduced myself as the door opened, just to clarify that I'm not here for a juice and a bath toy.

"Oh, right," the woman replied. She guided me to the backyard and there it was, in all its shiny polished glory. A toaster on wheels. My future home-away-from-home. A 1962 Red Dale Travel Trailer.

"My husband has completely refurbished the entire inside," the woman explained the new and improved features as she unlocked the trailer door.

What I stepped into was a 1950's diner themed room. I looked at the kitchen area, the red and white vinyl booth seats and stainless steel table, half expecting to see a milkshake waiting for me next to the Coca-Cola salt and pepper shakers.

The walls were painted white, the cabinets, stove and fridge all red. It was in mint condition, perfect working order. It was love at first sight.
I looked at the woman, beaming. "I'll take it!" I handed over an envelope full of bills and she handed me the title.

Driving off the property, trailer in tow behind van, I couldn't stop picturing how luxurious my future road trips were going to be from that moment on. No more cooking dinner outside in the cold and the dark by headlamp with frozen, numb fingers. Eating meals at a real table, not in the driver's seat. Lounge space that's warm and bright.

I hadn't been this excited about something I had purchased at this high a dollar amount since that June day in 2009 when I took a tiny Fritz puppy home with me.
So while everyone else was out trick-or-treating or going to costume parties, dressing (undressing?) like hoes on the one night a year where it's somehow socially acceptable, I was significantly upgrading my life.


01 November 2012

The Colorado Bouldering Season

The hot, hot heat of summer finally dissipated into the perfect temps of autumn. The Aspen leaves were glowing yellow around Colorado and the air was crisp in my lungs.
I had been in a bit of a lull since hurting my finger at the Vail World Cup in June, and although I was still able to climb, the recovery was slow. The fear of re-injuring my finger made me hesitant in my movements, and my motivation less than overwhelming.
And then it happened... One fine October day I went for my morning after-coffee experience and found the Yosemite guidebook sitting on the back of the throne. I felt a spark flicker deep inside me. Each page that turned was like oxygen to the flame, until I felt a burning so intense I knew I was getting my mojo back.
Or it could have just been the Taco Bell from the previous day's lunch.

Whatever the case, it was time for some damn rock climbing!
The plan was as much climbing outside as possible to get "outdoor fit" and develop some tough skin and a confident head for my Second Annual Trip to Yosemite Valley. The word "Yosemite" alone is enough to get anyone who calls themselves a climber excited.

Alas, the title of this blog is The Colorado Bouldering Season. I mean, yes, I'm unbelievably antsy to get out to the Valley, but until then, Rocky Mountain granite is the next best thing!

The Bischer Traverse V8 Poudre Canyon

Surfing The Tsunami V9 Poudre Canyon

Resonated V9 Eldorado Canyon

Beautiful day out climbing!

One Ton Ho V9 Poudre Canyon

The following sequence shots are on Mind Matters V11 in Guanella Pass
All Photos by Kelly McBride

Needless to say, it's been fun! Not pictured, but, I believe, worth mentioning, was the Girls' Day trip I went on with Angie Payne to Wild Basin where we both managed to, in quite literally opposite styles, take down a few V8's and V10's.
Taking the van all over climbing areas in Colorado has been a blast, and with the awesome bed I (by "I" I mean Kevin Cuckovich and Stephen Ogburn) made to go in the back, some of the trips have been overnight stays to get those few extra hours of climbing in. But while the van bed is extremely comfy and convenient, having to get out of the vehicle to brave the cold, crisp air to cook dinner by headlamp, or breakfast in the morning wind is becoming something I'd rather not grow more accustomed to.
Perhaps an even greater upgrade is in my near future...

15 August 2012

All American Classics

Well I hurt my finger again. It felt amazing to get outside the few days that I did before getting hurt, and my motivation was soaring. Naturally I'm super bummed that I've taken a big step backwards in recovery progress, but thankfully it doesn't seem as bad as I initially thought. And more in the palm than the actual finger.

I'm taking a week off to "heal" as best as I can, (patience isn't one of my strongest character traits.) It's only been three days and I'm already desperate to start climbing again, and even get back on the bastard boulder that wrecked me.

I took six weeks off after Teva to recover, and it may not sound like a long time but my frustration in tweaking my hand again and having to take just a minimal one week off has been bumming me out. My hand had been feeling much better and I was starting to feel super strong again. I thought I was in the home stretch. This regression sucks.

In my sour mood I've been reminiscing about the best rock climbs I have done. I recall that Urban Climber Magazine did a "Top 100" countdown not too long ago, and although I probably couldn't rank a hundred problems, I've decided to pick one boulder of each difficulty grade I've done (in the United States), V0-V12, that stands out as a clear and dominant all-time-fave.

This was definitely not an easy task, as you will see many honorable mentions for many grades. Photos when I had them.

V0 A Birthing Experience, Bishop, CA
 Lisa Rands trying to exit the womb on A Birthing Experience

V1 Great White, Yosemite, CA

V2 The Angler, Joe's Valley, UT
Sasha Turrentine inching her way up The Angler

V3 Porkchop, Red Rocks, NV
Kati Peters on Porkchop

V4 Tendons Give, Yosemite, CA
Honorable Mentions: Jedi Mind Tricks, Bishop, CA
Taylor Nystrom fighting on Honorable Mention Jedi Mind Tricks

V5 Hammerhead, Yosemite, CA
Honorable Mentions: Kill by Numbers, Joe's Valley; Germ Free Adolescence, Eldorado Canyon, CO

Going for it ~with gusto!~ on Hammerhead

V6 Wills of Fire, Joe's Valley, UT
Honorable Mentions: Woodyard Arete, Yosemite, CA
Jes and Ian Dory sizing up Wills of Fire

V7 No Holds Bard, Yosemite, CA

V8 The Wind Below, Joe's Valley, UT
Honorable Mentions: King Cobra, Yosemite, CA; The Checkerboard, Bishop, CA
 Charlie Barrett high off the deck on The Wind Below

V9 The Tombstone, Yosemite, CA
Honorable Mentions: Heart of Darkness, Yosemite, CA; The Fall Guy, Bishop, CA
Kelly McBride on Honorable Mention The Fall Guy

V10 The Vortex, Boone, NC
Honorable Mentions: Drive On, Yosemite, CA; Thriller, Yosemite, CA; Whispers of Wisdom, RMNP, CO; Beyond Life, Joe's Valley, UT
The Vortex

V11 Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Bishop, CA
Honorable Mention: Stand and Deliver, Red Rocks, NV
Haroun and the Sea of Stories

V12  A Maze of Death, Bishop, CA
Honorable Mention: Book of Nightmares, Red Rocks, NV
Jeff Sillcox finding his way through A Maze of Death

There you have it folks; the ultimate classic ticklist countdown! Enjoy!

25 July 2012

TRAINING: Not Being Left Behind

I'm in Colorado. I ended up in Boulder on April 16th with intentions to train for the Vail World Cup at the Teva Mountain Games. After spending the entire fall/winter/spring on the road having outdoor climbing adventures, I planned to begin with pure plastic on April 16th, giving me roughly seven weeks to get "comp fit." My training regiment for the month and a half was planned out entirely by Kris Peters, who spent three to seven hours a day, four to five days a week in the gym with me, motivating, pushing and instructing.

This was the first time I've ever trained like this.

In true honesty, and not to be taken arrogantly, for most of my climbing career I've managed to get by on pure talent. Somehow I've been able to win comps and climb hard boulders "off the couch," for lack of better words. But times are changing. People are getting stronger, working harder. There are more "super kids" being created every day. I was stalling out, getting stagnant. I came to the conclusion that talent alone wasn't cutting it anymore, I could no longer get by on just ability. If I didn't start training, adding a focused work ethic on top of my natural gift and passion, I was going to get left in the dust.

In the short amount of time I spent training with Kris in Boulder I became the strongest I'd ever been.

In the beginning of June I came in fourth at the Vail World Cup, and was the highest placing American competitor. I felt unbelievably fit, climbed very well, and although I was going for gold and couldn't help feeling just slightly disappointed, I felt like I did my very best.

After Vail I took six weeks off to give my body a break after pushing it harder than it's ever been pushed. I started up again with Kris about a week and a half ago, along with many others who have joined the ranks. Progression is imminent. I'm rock climbing outside a bunch this summer and fall, and secretly (not so secret anymore...) hoping for incredible things.

All photos by Kelly McBride

23 March 2012


I was unsure where to begin writing about my trip to Chile. Chronologically, beginning with the event for which I was in South America, The North Face Master of Bouldering, would make the most sense. But it's the least fresh in my mind, and as great as the event was, it was unmatched in the surrealism I experienced in the Andes in the days that followed. I considered making two separate posts, one for the competition and another for my time in the mountains. But, as it is all one trip, it all has its place, and as you will see, I have chosen to condense and begin appropriately at the beginning.
Taking the red-eye out of Atlanta, I arrived in Santiago, Chile at around 9am on Thursday.

For those of you who don't know where Santiago is (because secretly I didn't) here's a little help:

I was accompanied by my new teammates Alex Honnold, Cedar Wright ("Cheddar" in the southern hemisphere), and Samurai Yuji Hirayama. I was sincerely excited to be there, it was my first trip as part of The North Face team, and I couldn't have asked for better people to spend my time with, though I'm sure two of them were wondering why they would be competing in a bouldering event...

Surprisingly enough, the guys found themselves feeling right at home in their element. One of the qualifier boulder problems was a straight hand-jamming crack, and of all the male competitors (around 60), my boys were the only ones to do it!!

Honestly, I was nervous for this event. More so than I had been in quite a while. I'm not sure exactly why, though I have a few speculations. For some reason I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well, as it was my first real showcase with The North Face. Also, we were brought to this event pretty much as the most difinitive representation of super stars, Honnold especially. We even had massive athlete posters placed dead center in the spectator area. I built this idea up in my head that with a preceding reputation it left room for people to be disappointed by my performance, when in fact, they were just psyched we were there.

Nerves aside, the competition was a pretty spectacular event. Fully organized and put on by TNF Chile, things went entirely smooth, and there were probably a couple thousand spectators watching finals. I flashed all the finals problems, as did Chilean competitor Soho Langbehn, and because of this tie results were defaulted to countback to semi-finals where Soho had beaten me by a fall, thus putting me in second place to a worthy opponent, third place going to Thais Makino of Brazil. Fellow North American (Canada) Sierra Allen placed a proud eighth.

Things for my boys went equally as well, with Samurai Yuji getting 2nd by and attempt or two at 43-years-old (still killing it). Honnold ended up seventh (don't let him tell you he can't boulder), and Cedar has a great personality.

The day after the event we headed out to the mountains.
Driving to the Choriboulders from Santiago I couldn't stop imagining that we were living scenes from Jurassic Park. We had two matching Subaru Foresters, driving single file, affixed with massive TNF logos on all sides, packed to the brim with duffels and gear. In our safari vehicle were myself, Honnold, Cedar and Sierra.

A third of the drive was on unpaved roads winding deep up into the dry climate of the Andes. Our camp was around 9,000 feet in elevation, set just below an 18,000 foot peak.

When we parked we were surrounded by boulders on all sides. Who's first instinct wouldn't be to go exploring? That's what all of us immediately did, in all different directions, when we hopped out of the cars. After scrambling around a bit I began to hear music floating up from somewhere, and when I popped up over the top of a nearby boulder, there sat an fiery-haired girl playing a ukelele-like instrament and humming "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Her name was Fran. There were two other girls at their camp called Nine, with awesome beaded hair, and Natalia. I sat down to listen and we watched the sun set behind the mountains. Afterwards, as I meandered my way back to our camp, I had already come to the subconscious conclusion that I would be sleeping outside under the most star-filled sky I've ever seen. They really do sparkle like diamonds. This being my first time in the southern hemisphere, I was able to watch many constellations I've never seen before drift across the sky. Needless to say it was hard to get to sleep.

If I had to describe the climbing at Choriboulders in one word it would be: diverse. Luckily, I can use as many words as I want. Sometimes the rock was as sedimentary as Maple Canyon, and sometimes it was Colorado granite. There was no consistency to this whatsoever, and it was often the case that the stone differed drastically from the front side of a boulder to the back. Regardless, the rock made for some interesting and often peculiar climbing in a gorgeous setting. The wild horses wandering about didn't hurt the majesty of it all, either.

Hiking to the boulders with my new friends Nine, Fran and Natalia I found a bunch of really awesome fossils which I geeked out over to the point where they probably thought I was a huge dork. They saw how excited I got over a few stones, and began to explain that there were fossilized dinosaur footprints in the area, which I expressed I would definitely be excited to see. So instead of climbing we went dinosaur hunting!

In the few days we spent in the beauty and magnificence of the Andes, hanging out around the campfire and sleeping under the stars there was so much laughter and camaraderie, so many surreal moments, and definitely some everlasting friendships made. It's surely a time I will never forget.

My last day in Chile we were back down in the city. Honnold and myself, along with Fran and Natalia, were invited to Nine's house for a big lunch. We learned how to make homemade gnocchi and spent the day lounging in Nine's big backyard, swimming in the pool, and... climbing her house...

At the end of the day, Fran and Nine brought me to the airport and dropped me off. I left South America with a huge smile on my face thinking of the wonderful time I had in Chile and the incredible people I got to share it with.