08 March 2015

No Ragrets

I just found this little gem of a journal entry in my phone from January 23rd. Oldie but goodie?

"I recently watched this funny movie called "We Are The Millers." There's a scene in which a baby thug gets punched out by Jennifer Aniston, but not before being questioned about his chest tattoo: NO RAGRETS.
"No regrets? None? Not even a letter?"

Anyway, you ever have those moments? The palm-to-forehead, how-did-I-ever-get-this-far-in-life ones? Yeah, me either. Peasants...

If you were thinking this was going to be some super deep "live life to the fullest" post, I'm sorry. This is about the epic four hour journey from Las Vegas to Bishop. And if you're thinking that there's no way a teeny tiny little four hour road trip could ever be epic, think again! I'm about to prove you wrong.

This drive is usually a piece of cake. I've probably done it thirty times; it's brainless. Sometimes I'm brainless. This time for some reason, I neglected to gas up in Beatty, Nevada, the halfway point. Which would have been fine, were I not towing the trailer...

Turning onto highway 266 we had roughly 95 miles of gas left in range, and 85 to Bishop. Which again, would have been aside from the (adorable) twelve-foot ball and chain I was dragging up winding mountain passes. The strategy was neutral on the downhills and low RPM's on the up. But then, a miracle! 'Next gas 58 miles.' I could crush that, even with the extra weight.

Except 58 miles came and went, and we saw nothing but Joshua trees. Twenty-seven more miles to the Shell in Big Pine, and my range read twenty. Still manageable, I thought, as we crawled up to a 7,300 foot summit at 15 miles per hour, guzzling away, blasting 90's pop songs and singing along for a half-assed distraction that honestly wasn't really working. That boiling hot stress knot you get in your upper shoulder area was making a screaming appearance.

Time came to make a decision with 13 reading on the range and 26 miles to go. When Effie said, "May the odds be ever in your favor," in The Hunger Games she obviously never had to tow a 1200 pound trailer uphill twice as far as the gas tank would allow. My odds sucked.

I sit here now, writing this as my car thirstily gulps regular unleaded. My trailer sits on the side of the road 26 miles back on Highway 266.

We coasted down into Big Pine in neutral for the last seven miles, with the range at zero. It's 10pm, and I have to drive half an hour back the way I came from, collect my home away from home, and then carry on up to Bishop. And I feel like a f***ing idiot. It's experiences like this that make up our life stories, right..?

Let me slap an "AJ Tip" to the end of this: When you have the opportunity to get gas right before driving off into no man's land--GET IT."

02 March 2015

The Swoop Project

Wow. What a crazy process. No wonder Woods and Beal named the Grandpa Peabody Proj "The Process." That's exactly what it is.

I was initially dragged down there to try a classic V5 to the right called "Tiger Lily." When I say dragged, I mean almost literally; it takes a lot to convince me to climb something of moderate difficulty. And I hate classics...

Tiger Lily, V5

(Kidding.) Tiger Lily is awesome! So awesome I had to do it twice. We'd heard from Southern Nevada Guidebook author, Tom Moulin that the arete left of Tiger Lily hadn't been climbed, and while taking a peek at that impossible-looking thing, I noticed that there were very obvious, perfect holds, spaced perfectly apart, on the black and orange striped face left of the arete. It looked stunning immediately; an obvious line, albeit the landing would be horrifying. The entire boulder sits up on this pedestal, and the landing zone for the Swoop Project was right where the pedestal ended and droped off, while also featuring an giant obtusely-shaped boulder (sharp end up, of course) smack in the middle of the drop off.

The line was dubbed the Swoop Project for multiple reasons, the first being that the crux was a sort-of 'arm pogo' dynamic jump move off a left hand crimp to a slopey rail. I would drop my right arm, and violently swing it upwards trying to gain a little extra momentum on take-off.

Reason number two, was that every time I went out of town (which was a lot over the last few weeks) my friend Seth would text me and tell me he was going to go swoop my project if I didn't hurry up and come home.

Of course I have a list as long as a grocery receipt of potential names for new climbs, but I'm so particular, I want a name to fit perfectly with a boulder, especially if it's a decent line. (If you know me personally, you know I'm particular about much more than just this...) As soon as it became known as "The Swoop Project" it was basically over. After I did it, I tried thinking about calling it something else, even saying names out loud. Ultimately I just kept referring to it as The Swoop, and so did everyone else, so the name just stuck. Now I'm pretty fond of it.

As I mentioned above, t's a really interesting process doing a first ascent. I've said before, Critically Acclaimed was spoon fed to me, and I have the utmost appreciation for that. But this was different; it was so personal. I've been joking that I 'raised it from an egg,' but that's exactly how it feels! It was like I created art. Or something. I created something. It's all very hard to explain, and fills me with overwhelming pride, and biased feelings, haha.

I felt an immediate connection to this line. It grabbed me and inspired me right away, regardless of presumed difficulty. I was driven by it; every time I would leave town, I couldn't stop thinking about returning to Vegas, trudging back down into that canyon, and trying again.

I had no idea how hard this thing was going to be. All I thought when I saw it was, "wow, I bet that goes!" I wanted to do it even if it ended up being V5; in the most cliche'd meaning possible, it just looked cool. I'm still not sure how difficult it actually is. I've been trying to compare it to other similar climbs in the area, taking into consideration the amount it took me to climb them and The Swoop comparatively, and taking into account size and style.

Photo: Max Moore

This problem is going to feel significantly harder if: you're short, not dynamic, not strong on crimps, contact strength is a weakness, etc.
It will feel significantly easier if: you're taller, good at jumping, have strong fingers, and especially all of the above.
Would this warrant downgrading? Probably not. I'm trying to consider the general climbing population, and base the grade off the average, not the select with the aforementioned advantages, who probably don't even know what V10 feels like anymore. Besides, this is just a suggestion.

The thing about doing something first, is that even if it to turns out to be easy, you really have no idea at first if it's even possible. No one has done it before you. You're the pioneer, the person who makes it possible. That's a crazy feeling. I can't even imagine how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin felt.

Every failed attempt I was thinking, "Man, does it go?? I have no idea!" As soon as someone has done it, you know it can be done, but until that point it's all a mystery. And to be the person who unlocks it, the person who says, "Yes, this IS possible." That's awesome.

Photo: David Beaver