"The NOLS"

1 Comment

"The NOLS"

What a wild ride the last 7 months has been. It’s been an interesting road seeing where my limit lies, but also testing how far I can push my limits. I took a 2 week road trip in January going through El Paso, Durango, Boulder, finally ending up in Lander, Wyoming. The trip ended with me starting a 3 month NOLS Wilderness EMT course. I completed my course at the end of April and never wrote anything outside of my personal journals on the course. I thought it might be interesting to try and sum up the experiences I went through with 22 other people for 3 months with a retrospective look. So here goes nothin’. 

I feel like it’s only right to start with the beginning of my road trip in January, since it was kind of an awakening to the fact that I’d be away from home longer than I’ve ever been before. Roads are an expansive place. Driving for 9 hours to El Paso I had so much excitement and eagerness to climb and get where I was going. After getting there and talking on the phone with my mom while I laid in the back of my truck on a sleeping pad a lot of the reality of my decisions set in. I was only 9 hours from home, but in reality I was 3 months away from home. My journey had only just started. I remember having to suck back tears on the phone with my mom so she wouldn’t be worried. I don’t think I had even thought about the fact I was “on my own” in a sense for the next 3 months. 

NOLS has a sort of grandiose image in my head for being such an amazing organization that produces some excellent outdoor educators. And being a NOLS alumn  carries weight for me. Some of my best friends I have now are all NOLS graduates from hard courses. And I think the harder the course you do the more confidence you have with saying “I’m a NOLS alumni”. I don’t think my course was the hardest by any means, but I do think it’s one of the harder courses NOLS offers, and definitely one of the hardest academic things that exists. The course combines a lot of things into one INSANELY jam packed semester of work. The main focus is Wilderness Rescue and rescue skills. 

 A snowy day at the Wyss Campus

A snowy day at the Wyss Campus

We started off with a 4 week EMT/WFR section (“section” being the term for each part of a semester). We heard a lot of warnings the first couple days of that section, like “This is going to be a lot of information coming at you in the next 4 weeks” and “At NOLS we liken it to drinking out of a fire hose”. And they’re not joking: our days were 8 hours of learning medical information and practicing skills. That doesn’t include the two nights a week of the last three weeks, on which we practiced our “practical skills” till 10:30pm. If we didn’t keep pace,  we’d fall so far behind it would almost be impossible to catch back up. So we studied, on an average night, from 6:30 till 11:00 or 12:00pm. Luckily, we were on  what is possibly the best campus in the world for such an insanely intense semester. The Wyss Campus is nestled in a beautiful canyon, on a fairly large piece of land providing plenty of space for students to hike and explore the hills on their off time. It was easily one of the more beautiful places I’ve been. I attribute part of my success in that section to that place; it would’ve been a chore to NOT study when the campus is designed to be a EMT student’s dream.

Part of that section involves going to the Lander and Riverton ER and doing clinical hours to get experiences with real patients. Some of the most rewarding work I think any person can do is to help other people when they’re at their worst, which was definitely the case with workers in the ER. They’re usually having terrible day, and it was our job to help them in any way they needed it. There were several patients that were just shocking to meet, and people who I had never met the likes of before. We saw drug abusers, alcoholics, people close to death, people choosing death, people fighting death, and death itself. The change was very obvious in our group of 21 students after those clinical days and nights. And towards the end of a course is when the intensity really kicks in. Our last week of the EMT section is nothing more than testing: Tuesday we had our EMT exam, Wednesday the WFR exam, Thursday was our practical skills exam, and Friday was the National Registry of EMT’s Exam (NREMT). I can’t remember a time in my life where I have been more nervous about a test than that when your $20,000 course depends on your success in 4 consecutive exams. And I can’t remember a time where I was more happy than the Friday after my NREMT exam was over and I had passed the hardest course of my life. And that was just the first 4 weeks!

The pace doesn’t let up though. 2 days after we were done with our EMT course our group of 21 students was split in two groups and put on a bus headed for the Canyonlands of Utah. We were backpacking and canyoneering for 22 days in some of the most beautiful canyons in the country. I would say this section tied the EMT section for difficulty for me. The physical aspect of carrying a 60-70 pound backpack for 7-10 miles a day is hard, but it’s the mental ware of knowing you’re operating at new heights that’s so hard. This was really uncharted territory for me and it was scary at times being so unsure of if I could even complete it. I remember writing in my journal the second night and saying “22 days is a dark looming number when it’s only day 2”. The days were long and the nights were cold the first week. We learned backcountry cooking, Leave No Trace principals, communication & leadership skills, and a lot about the 14 other humans around us (11 students and 3 instructors). 

I learned so much from my fellow students on that section about strength and mental fortitude. One day I think back on so often on harder days is when our oldest in the group (30) was sick on a longer hiking day. For me throwing up has always been my shut down point, if it happens I just can’t deal. This guy had been throwing up for probably 2 and a half days at this point and is hiking at pace with the rest of us with the same weight on his back. I remember looking back while walking through the brush and seeing him stop walking to brace himself on his knees and throw up, wipe off his face and keep walking past me as I looked on dumbfounded. I asked him as we walked what in the world keeps him going, because had that been me 2 days deep into throwing up everything I ate, I would’ve been on the first EVAC van out of there at that point. He said to me “You can let yourself down, and you can’t let your team down” and walked on. There have been few impactful things said to me in life that have drastically changed the way i’ve thought and that’s definitely one of them. I would say the Canyons section taught me more about mental strength than I had learned anywhere previously. 

 Nick, Daniel, Me, James, & Joey posing in our skivvies after 2 very cold swims in the slot canyon. 

Nick, Daniel, Me, James, & Joey posing in our skivvies after 2 very cold swims in the slot canyon. 

Our last morning in the Canyonlands I couldn’t have been more ready to get onto the next section. 4:00am I was up as soon as I heard the first noise in the instructor tent and packed in record breaking time (Guinness book hit me up). The bus drove us from Green River, UT to Vernal, UT to start our River Rescue Section. The NOLS Vernal River base is like the Ritz after you’ve just spent 22 days in the sand canyons drinking water that looks like chocolate milk, bathing in cold streams, and eating sausage and cheese in every meal. The River base has 5 showers with infinite hot water, computers to apply for jobs on, and the ability to use our phones to contact family in free time. All things we had grown to appreciate greatly after almost a month without them. Our instructors were F A N T A S T I C. We had Nate Ostis for our first 5 days of river rescue skills who literally wrote the book for NOLS on river rescue and is easily the most inspiring man i’ve met in my life. They knew river rescue like the back of their hand, all were skilled boaters, and most had been guiding river trips for years. River rescue feels like you’re training to be like a navy SEAL or something. Nate Ostis even looks like he could be a Spec ops operator with his beard and attitude. He held us to such a high standard and we thrived under the pressure. We woke up every morning at 7:00 to start learning skills on the land and after lunch at noon we were in the water till 6:00pm doing what we had just learned on land. Nate would yell things to us while we were swimming in the freezing water like “RESCUE TEMPO!”. It truly feels like you’re hot shit when we got done with the 5 day rescue portion of the 15 day river section. 

The other 10 days are spend on the Green River that cuts through Desolation & Gray Canyon making the deepest canyon in the U.S. in Desolation Canyon. The first day of rafting down river is about 8 hours of trying to figure out how to get the boat to go straight while an instructor says “What’s your angle right now” every 30 seconds. Oddly enough if you suck at something for 8 hours straight the universe just gifts you the ability to do that thing so it worked out for all of us. We would row down river for 10-20 miles a day and then practice rescue skills till it got dark out. The section taught me a lot about communication and maybe helped me be able to speak with confidence more so than I had previously. I learned that I’m a directive leader that appreciates brevity and direct quick talks about what to do, rather than long thought out several option ideas. Our group did a lot of feedback on that section to one another, positive and constructive, and that ability to tell someone when you’re unhappy with something they’re doing was very positive for our group. 

 My last morning on the Green River, feeling like a real swift water ninja. 

My last morning on the Green River, feeling like a real swift water ninja. 

Leaving the river section was bittersweet, we were moving on in the course but we were only 22 days away from our final moments together. I wrote in my journal on one of the final nights of the river section “I feel like I’m living in a memory already of the times we’re having”. Off we went into the last section of our 3 month course in a van to Unaweep Canyon in Colorado with our climbing instructors. 

Our last section was High Angle Rescue, which translates to rescues that involve cliff faces or hard to get to mountainous areas. Our lead instructor was well versed in climbing rescues being on the Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) team for a few years. She was probably what I was most excited for on this course, her experience and love for climbing were really cool for me, being from a heavy climbing background. We covered a ton of what’s called “Self Rescue” skills in the first 10 days, which mainly involves how do I get myself or my partner off a rock climb if one of us is injured. Mixed in with the rescue skills was just regular old climbing stuff. Everyone in the group did a multi-pitch day of their own choosing. Since my mentor for that section was our lead instructor we did a more challenging and longer route (5.11, 5 pitch route). I can shoot up 5.11 sport climbs all day, however this was a 5.11 crack trad climb and it ended up taking our group of 4 climbers a little under 12 hours to get up the wall and find a rappel spot to get down. It made for my first rappel in the dark and it was nerve racking at first, but once I got loaded onto the line and lowering down I looked out at the pitch black night broken by the incredible glowing moon and stars. That was the height of those first 10 days for me and possibly the entire section. 

 Morning in Unaweep Canyon, Colorado. 

Morning in Unaweep Canyon, Colorado. 

We left on day 10 for Freemont Canyon, Wyoming to start the Two Rope Rescue Systems skills. The two rope rescue system requires a team that knows what they’re doing to operate it safely and requires a lot of trust from every member in the team. Essentially you lower a rescuer over an edge who is managing a litter who then loads a patient into that litter and then that entire package gets hauled back up to the top to then get EVAC’d out via helicopter or litter carry off the mountain. The skills are not easy by any means, and most involve complicated math to describe how they work. Despite that we all fell into the role that best suited our skill sets and were able to operate 2 final rescues that went off without a hitch. After the final rescue it was only a short time till we were back in the van headed back to Lander, Wyoming for our final ceremonies and graduation banquet. 

The feeling of being finished with such a hard course and knowing that we had done well in it had us feeling like the Varsity NOLS team when we were back in Lander. The other NOLS courses heading out were like naive freshmen about to head off onto their own adventures. And boom just as quickly as we had all met one another 3 months earlier my friends started getting in shuttles to the airports and in cars back to where they were from. Just like that my NOLS experience was over and I had to start heading back home myself. 

I look back at my life last year and my life this year and it’s insane. I was working in a dark office room at a computer for 8-10 hours a day. Today I sit in Belfast, Maine on one of my off days writing about the experience that brought me here today. I’ve been back home in Dallas for a total of 1 month this year so far and been so many other places in the other 6 Months; Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Washington DC, Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, Quebec just to name a few. I have never felt more in charge of my own life as I have these last few months. NOLS was a truly transformative experience in my life, I would recommend a course to anyone who has ever thought about spending extended amounts of time in the outdoors.

 Night time light painting on the Green River. 

Night time light painting on the Green River. 

1 Comment

Comment

Day 14: Met my Heroes!!

Today was FANNNNTAAAASSSTTIIIIICCCCCCC!!!!! I kind of flew by the seat of my pants all day and it worked out very well haha. The day started off early at 6:45 because Ian and I had to move our cars out of the student parking lot by 7:30. We grabbed breakfast and then I headed off to Denver to meet up with my friends Jimmy and Delaney for the “OR” (Outdoor Retailer) trade show downtown. Denver traffic was epic, but I made it to a decently priced parking spot not too far away from the Convention center. I had not be completely certain if I was going to even be able to get into the building, because it’s required that you have a pass, which are usually purchased by large companies looking to buy things from the booths. Luckily Delaney is a professional climber for the Adidas Terrex team, and was able to sneak me in using someone else’s pass. 

Inside OR is insane. Huge booths from Northface, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, you name any outdoor brand and they have a magnificent booth filled with their gear. I was a kid in a candy shop while Jimmy and I walked around the booths. We made our way to the Black Diamond booth because they had free coffee and loads of cool new gear. As we stood there waiting for his coffee, a man in a red jacket and large black backpack appeared in the middle of the booth floor, and I thought to myself “That looks like Alex Honnold”. Sure enough he turned around and it was friggin’ Alex FRIGGIN Honnold standing 5 feet away from me. I don’t think i’ve fan-girl’d so hardcore in my life. My face instantly flushed and I knew I had to find a way to shake his hand and get a picture with him. I waited patiently as he talked with some other folks and then finally he walked towards me. I said “Hey, would you mind if I shook your hand?” with an extremely flush face I followed that up with “Can I get a picture as well if it’s not too much?” and he was very nice and took a photo with me. Such an amazing experience that I never expected would happen. A random tid-bit about Alex, his hands are fairly large, and his fingers are fatter than “normal” ones would be, I don’t know if you care or not, but it struck me as interesting. 

IMG_3743.jpg

It took me a while to come down from that high, but we walked around to the other booths in the building. We found our way into the Patagonia booth, and started to check out the jackets and their clothing repair station. I have some strong opinions already about my Patagonia Micro-Puff jacket, and if I hadn’t already replaced my original jacket that had ripped, I would’ve given them an ear full about their jacket’s weaknesses. We concluded our Patagonia experience and began to walk out, but as I turned around my eyes stopped when they recognized TOMMY CALDWELL standing straight in front of us. I flipped out instantly as I saw him and proclaimed out loud “THATS TOMMY CALDWELL DUDE” and as I said that Tommy witnessed my freakout sesh 10 feet away from him. I casually walked over to him and asked if I could shake his hand and grab a photo, and he very kindly agreed. I really wanted to ask if I could see his finger that had been cut off when he was a kid, but I figured I’d settle for a handshake and a pic. The day was completely and totally made in my opinion at that point. Not only had I met my two climbing heroes, I was hanging out with other professional climbers all day. It really felt awesome to be around so many strong and passionate people all day. 

Not only were Delaney and Jimmy in town for “OR”, but my mentor and friend Mario and his wife as well. I really wanted to see Mario before I got to Wyoming, he kind of feels like a little slice of home, since I’ve spend so much time with him. Luckily I got to spend my night with him and his wife at the new Brooklyn Boulder’s HQ in Denver. The opening was a celebration of diversity in the outdoor and climbing community and had a super positive atmosphere the moment you walked in the door. It was a really amazing way to round out the day, I’m so glad I was able to hang with Mario before I went off into the wilderness of Wyoming. 

It was such an amazing day that kind of just fell into place piece by piece and turned into one of the best days of my trip. Tomorrow I drive to Wyoming and start my journey as a Wilderness EMT / Mountain man / Person who can drive on ice (hopefully). Tomorrow will be filled with reading my Emergency Care book for hours and filling in the gaps of my blog from the past few days that I didn’t have Wifi. Thank you all for following along this far!

Comment

Comment

Day 11: Texan driving in a snow storm

What a day today, man. There were certain points of today where I thought I might be stuck in the middle of a mountain snowed up to the roof on my Bronco freezing my butt off until the sun melted me free. I planned to be in Boulder tonight but plans change just as quick as the road conditions changed today. I started my drive to Boulder around noon, and in my mind I had given the sun a chance to melt the snow on the roads. I sent videos and called my parents saying I was on the way to boulder, and even felt pretty confident that I could conquer the Wolf Creek pass mid snow storm. The sky slowly turns grey as you drive into the white distance, and eases you into the slowly deteriorating road conditions. 

I drove out of Pagosa Springs and a large billboard flashed “WOLF CREEK PASS - EXERCISE CAUTION” and the road began to slope upwards towards the mountain. Very quickly the black road gave way to white snow patches and then total white as I climbed higher. I was only going 40 and I had a small chevy sedan trailing me and I thought to myself “Surely if this guy is doing fine, I’ll be fine in my truck”. As we got higher up there was an area for the commercial vehicles to put on their chains on their tires. As I drove by it I had a fight in my head about wether or not I should stop and attempt to put chains on my tires for the first time ever, but a voice spoke up and said “Trust in the 4 wheel drive, you’ll be fine”. I continued to ascend the increasingly sloping road and my truck started to lose speed, but when I pushed the gas to maintain my speed up the hill my truck’s back end slipped out. I fishtailed back and forth and I struggled to regain control on the narrow road on the side of a mountain. Finally regaining control I immediately pulled off the road onto the shoulder that was significantly deeper snow. I had a small melt down as I realized how insanely over my head I was, 8 miles from the summit of this pass and unable to control my vehicle while mini vans were doing just fine. I got out of the care to feel the road with my feet to see if there was even a “road” to drive on, there was not. Completely covered by a thick snow pack my foot slid back and forth on the tire tracks. I got back in the truck and had another miniature panic attack about how completely screwed I was. I determined that there was no chance of me regaining enough speed to make it up the sleep slope and that I needed to turn around in order to stay safe. Completely defeated I managed to turn the car around without sliding off the road. I sulked down back to Pagosa Springs, filled with the sinking feeling that if getting to boulder was this hard, Wyoming would be 10x harder. 

I pulled into the first gas station I saw in Pagosa Springs and called my mom, defeat is never complete without a call to your mother haha. We talked for a little bit and she did what she does best, she helped me find a new way to go without the dangerous pass. It was longer and I wouldn’t arrive in boulder today, but it was a much safer drive and I would be on the right road to get to Boulder tomorrow. We re-routed me to Santa Fe, 2 and a half hours away, and determined I’d stay there for the night and give the weather time to relax a little. 

Today was easily the most trying day of my journey so far. I legitimately thought my truck was going to get stuck in the middle of a snow filled mountain and I’d have to somehow walk out of the pass on foot. It’s the most out of control i’ve felt in a very long time. That feeling of complete helplessness has been absent for most of my adult life so far, and it was strange to welcome it back today. It felt like being a kid again, and it made me wonder if my father had ever had times where he felt helpless like a child. It effected me so much that the rest of the drive I was on the edge of my seat when I saw any patch of snow on the road. I’m very grateful I have a new route for tomorrow that doesn’t include sketchy roads. I’m grateful I have a mother who I can call when I feel completely out of control and she calms me down. Hopefully tomorrow I make it to Boulder!

Comment

1 Comment

Day 10: The Schwob/Wheeler Hangboard lives!!!

Well we’re basically all done with the hang-board! after two-ish days of work (roughly 10 hours) all that’s left to do is to put the final finish on it. I wasn’t expecting it to look as good as it does to be truthful, it ACTUALLY looks like a “Beastmaker 1000”. 

IMG_3706.PNG

We started with a block of cherry wood 3 feet by 11 inches and cut it down to 22 by 8 inches. We knew the layout we wanted because we were basing it off the beastmaker 1000. We’d have two 4 finger, two 3 finger, and two 2 finger pockets on the bottom row, all half an inch deep. On the next row is the same layout, except with a single 4 finger pocket in the middle of it, and these pockets are 1 inch deep. On the final row only two 4 finger pockets on the outsides and two 3 finger pockets in the middle, each of these at 3/4 an inch. Finally at the top of the board we’d make a sloper at a 45 degree angle and round the edge in the back to make for a nice jug hold. 

The size of the holds was fairly easy to figure out. I measured 4 of my fingers for the 4 finger pocket, and then measured 3 fingers, and so on. The other part we had to figure out was the spaces in between the pockets which were either 3/4s an inch or 1/2 depending on the amount of pockets on the row. After we had calculated all the dimensions for the board we had to make a sort of stencil for it so that we could cut out the pockets using a plunger drill thing (idk the actual name, but it has the word Plunger in it). This was actually the hardest part of the whole endeavor, the plunger drill is a hard thing to control and getting the correct depth in the pockets is key to have a consistent training board. After we drilled the pockets we hit them a second time with another handheld drill that cleans up the edges without making them wider. Then we cut the square board and made the edges round so that it resembled the beastmaker a little more. When we got that done we cut the sloper hold on the top of the board at the 45 degree angle. After all the big cuts it was mostly just small things to make the overall look a little nicer. Rounding the edges, making the pocket’s edges smooth so they’re nice to hold, sanding the faces, and putting the final wood finish on it. 

I couldn’t be happier with the final product, It looks like the real deal and I made it with my own two hands with my grandpa in his workshop. It makes me feel like a real man when I can craft things out of wood that are actually good looking hahah. I have a few ideas for the board as well, I think I’ll have my friends do as many pull ups on it as they can and then write on the back and sign it or something cool like that. All good things must come to an end and tomorrow I leave Durango to move on up to Boulder with my friend Ian for a week. I can’t believe that school is a little more than a week away, but I’m so excited to start I can barely contain myself! Hopefully my drive tomorrow isn’t horrible with all the snow dropping tonight, Pray for me!!

IMG_3704.JPG

1 Comment

Comment

Day 9: Creating things in the Workshop

Today was a fairly laid back day.. Not in the sense where my body isn’t sore and I feel well rested, but in the way of I didn’t climb anything hard today haha. The biggest change of the day was that I got a hair cut FINALLY. I don’t have a picture or anything of it, but it’s finally out of my face and I don’t look like i have a mop on my head anymore. The only other thing I did today after the haircut was work on making a “hang-board” from scratch with my grandpa. I looked up some plans online for making a home made hang-board, and I also printed out a picture of a real hang-board, and grandpa and I went into the workshop like two mad scientists to create our vision. 

We got a lot done today on the board. It’s basically 3/4s complete, all that’s left is to sand the pockets where the fingers go and then make it look pretty by sanding the rest of the board. The process was long and tiring to create this thing hahah, doing all the math and then measuring each hole for fingers took hoursssss and then cutting and drilling it was even more time. I’m fairly happy with how it’s turned out so far though, but there were moments when I thought we’d have to start over from scratch. Luckily my grandpa is a master at salvaging disasters in wood, and we saved the project multiple times today. Tomorrow I’ll probably do a full write up on how we created our home made hang-board, after I see that the finished product looks semi decent haha. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow so I might not have much else to do!

Comment

Comment

Day 8: I sent my Project!

Today was dooooooopee. Spend most the day climbing at Sailing hawks again, and even met some cool dudes out there today. It was my goal to send the V7 “Sunday Stroll” that had ripped a hole in my finger on Tuesday. I also wanted to sample a few other things and try a hard V5 that I didn’t know the beta for called “Three Finger”. 

The first climb I walked up to today was in fact “3 Finger” the V5 thing I hadn’t ever been able to figure out, but I also hadn’t put too much effort into working the move or figuring it out. While I set my pads up for the route’s fall zones 2 guys walked up and said they were also going to work on Three Finger. One of the guys, Ben, had some good beta for the route. Apparently the whole thing hinges on a dank heel hook, hand match, type thing. After I figured that out it only took 1-2 tries to finish it off. Even though it only goes at V5 I was quite satisfied to take down a the classic Sailing Hawks V5. 

 Eric on holding the Right crimp with the Knee bar, getting ready to fire up to the lip!

Eric on holding the Right crimp with the Knee bar, getting ready to fire up to the lip!

After that Ben said one of his friends Eric was going to come out, and that he also wanted to project “Sunday Stroll” which was a pretty great coincidence. We padded up the bottom and I started to feel the moves again individually. When Eric walked up, he shoed up, and was actually able to get it on his first try today. Super impressive, and kind of intimidating to see hahah. It took me quite a bit longer than 1 attempt, but I too was able to send the route. I’ll spew some of the route’s beta here as well; It starts on two side-pull holds on the bottom left of the boulder and then goes up left hand to a 2 finger pocket. You then throw a right hand to a small crimp and you walk your feet over to the right side and drop knee the side of the boulder which allows you to smoothly bring your right hand up to another crimp about as small and as bad as the first one. You then get a high left foot up and put a higher right drop knee on the side and go up left hand to a knobby thing that you can make into a crimp. This is where the climb “turns on” for me, you go up right hand again to yet ANOTHER small crimp and then you get a super duper high right foot and twist your leg into the side of the boulder and it turns into a very nice drop knee. The drop knee allows you to bump the right hand up to a broken hold that is only really positive on the pointer and half of the tip of the middle finger, but just good enough to hold onto. After that the left hand goes out to a very small pocket-y hold and then finally you slap the top out and it’s all over! It’s not the hardest V7 i’ve ever done, but it was certainly rewarding to send this thing after it took a chunk out of me. 

After Sunday Stroll we projected a few different things, a V9 called “Global Warming” and a V8 called “Meat head” were the two that stood out to me. Oddly enough the V9 felt more doable for me, mainly because it fits my style of climbing well. The V8 is this powerful roof climb that is still proving to be my anti style, I was only able to pull the first move. Overall I had a pretty rewarding day, I’m glad to take down my “Durango Projects” on this trip and I have some new projects to grab next time i’m here. Tomorrow grandpa and I plan on making a home-made hang board and I’ll probably finally get a haircut too.

 Eric on "Meat Head" V8

Eric on "Meat Head" V8

Comment

Comment

Day 7: Rest day number 2

I write tonight very sleepy from a not so hard day, I’m really baffled on why i’m so tired tonight haha. I went back to the slopes today with grandma and grandpa for a short day on the mountain, but I was glad that I didn’t push it too hard. I’ve started to realize what I really value because I used to go all out on snowboarding, really pushing it to the max, and I’ve hurt myself several times, however on these 2 days I showed some self control and chose not to. I value my climbing above all else right now, and more than that I really can’t injure myself before my school starts up haha. 

After our short day on the mountain we pretty much just rested until dinner time. I went up to my room and started watching “Troy” because I enjoy ancient greek stuff and mainly because Netflix has nothing else I was interested in. I dozed off for about an hour and woke up for dinner. I can’t overstate how much my grandparents are doing for me while I’m here, They cook for me almost every night, my grandpa bought my lift tickets and board rental, and they’re really making me feel pampered while in Durango. These are the days I really feel blessed. I get to travel around climbing on things and snowboarding, really living my “dream” for so long of being care free and doing what I want. I enjoy these relaxing days, but I feel a little guilty for not squeezing every last drop of excitement and adventure out  of these days because I know this is a gift that few people get in life. I just want to make sure I do it right. 

Short blog for today again, hopefully tomorrow i’ll have some climbing junk to throw in here about a successful day filled with sends and new friends!

Comment

Comment

Day 6: Hit the Slopes

I write tonight with dry eyes and a fully belly after a full day on the ski slopes followed up by a nice dinner in town. The snow conditions in Durango are very sub-optimal for the time of year, there’s a lot of icy patches and rocks on the thinner parts of the snow. It makes for some interesting snowboarding to say the least. 

The day wasn’t all too exciting, grandpa and I ski’d all over and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The place was empty, hardly anyone even on the slopes all day, even at the restaurant on the mountain we were the only two in the entire building. Towards the end of the day a girl pulled up next to us and was yelling “Oh god I broke my F**** hand”  and sure enough she pulled off her glove to a severely bruised palm. It was very strange because just as quickly as she came up to us, she was ripping back down the mountain again haha. After that encounter I was resolved to not injure myself while snowboarding, so after we made back to the front side of the mountain we called it a day and headed home. 

Almost as soon as we got home I went straight to the couch and knocked out for a few hours. When I awoke grandma was saying that we should go out for food tonight and we ended up going to an Italian restaurant inside downtown Durango. It was a nice end to a rather uneventful day. Tomorrow we’re going back to ski some more and then hopefully on Thursday my fingertip is healed enough for me to go back to Sailing Hawks and finish the v7 that bloodied me!

Comment

1 Comment

Day 5: Bloody Monday!

It was bloody Sunday today. I got one of the worst “flappers” i’ve ever had today, I’m not sure it even qualifies as a flapper if it’s this bad. It’s more like a deep gash like cut on my right hand’s middle finger. I’m going to make you read a little though before I tell you what happened! Muahahah!! 

Today started off with an amazing breakfast burrito made by myself and my grandmother, and then it was straight to the Sailing Hawks bouldering area. I always forget how intense the hike up the initial hills are just to get to the first series of boulders. I had scoped out a few different routes I wanted to try today, mostly V6s & 7s, in an attempt to test my strengths in different areas of the country. I walked up and saw someone working a V6 sloper traverse route and I asked if he would mind if I joined him for a while. He didn’t mind, so we headed for the “Font” boulder to try some harder things. There were a few routes on the mostly sloper-y boulder, a V4 stand start, a V6 sit start, a V8 traversing into the V6, and then a V10 that traversed across the entire face. I started on the V4 stand and found it fairly easy so I moved right along to the V6 sit start. This V6 was probably one of the more technical boulders I’ve tried from that grade. Starting with matched hands on a jug side-pull, you throw a right hand up real high to a slope-y crimp like thing that’s better as an open hand rather than a closed crimp. After that move you re-adjust the feet and throw a right foot wide and high and the left foot cams into a small crack down low. This move is definitely one of the weirder techy moves i’ve had to do, while you focus your left into the foot jam into the crack, you stand up on it and bring your left hand into a very small undercling. I wasn’t able to actually do this move after about 30 attempts haha, either the right hand on the crimp dry fired off, the left foot slipped out, or I just totally missed the undercling. A very frustrating start to the day, but I was still psyched on the beautiful weather outside. 

I decided to move on to the boulder I really wanted to climb today called “The Sunday Stroll” boulder. This boulder stuck out to me because on my very first time at Sailing Hawks 2 years ago I was completely unable to pull onto the start holds of this boulder, and I wanted to test if my new strength in bouldering meant I could do it now. As I walked towards the boulder I walked past the V6 sloper traverse route and a guy was working on it. I stopped to catch my breath from the 5 minutes of hiking and started talking with the guy and found out he was working a low start that goes up the middle. The route really stuck out to me because it was a short, technical, powerful climb. Just my style of boulder. The beta was cool too, I started matched hands on a incredibly bad sloper start with a low right foot and a really cool left toe hook waaaaay underneath the bottom of the boulder. I core up a lot, and really sink my left foot into the toe hook and fire my right hand up to a really awesome mono pocket. I don’t release the toe hook just yet, and I slap my left hand onto a small hueco sloper pocket. From those two holds I slowly pull the middle finger out of the mono pocket and go up to a slope-y crimp and then bump it again to a good sloper on the lip of the boulder. At this point I cut both feet and bring the right foot up to the start hold, while also getting my left hand to a sloper and bumping it again to a higher one on the top of the boulder. The last hard part is getting your left foot into the hueco sloper thing while not being able to see it at all, after that it’s just a mantle off solid feet onto the top of the boulder. I really enjoyed projecting and finally sending this thing, I think it’s one of the cooler routes i’ve done at Sailing Hawks for sure. 

IMG_3632 2.PNG

After I finished, I said thanks to the guy for letting me project his route, and moved on towards the Sunday Stroll boulder. It didn’t take long and I was setting my pads up underneath the boulder that was so hard 2 years ago. After feeling all the holds and trying the moves out individually it was very apparent that this boulder was perfect for me. It starts on a left hand pocket and right hand crimp and follows kind of the same kind of technical moves up the whole thing. Right hand goes up with a right drop knee off a good foot and then left goes to a side-pull, and that trend continues for the next 4 moves. I was able to get the first 3/4s of the route fairly easily, I found them to be very much my style of climbing, the crux for me is the last crimp before the top out. The hold has broken fairly recently, and it’s a very crappy hold that basically only your point and middle finger hold onto, but if they latch oh boy it’s good. After getting all those moves I decided to try the top, and THIS is where it gets bloody hahah. I pulled onto the last two holds before the top out and then threw my right hand up to the top to see how good it was, it was dooooope by the way, and after I jumped off the route and back onto the pads, ready to attempt all the moves for the “send go”. However when I landed back on the pads I looked down at my hands and I had blood gushing like crazy coming from my middle finger. This was more blood than had every come out of my fingers before from a scrape or cuticle popping, it was alarming to say the least hahah. I realized I was bleeding all over the place and quickly grabbed my Nalgene to poor water onto it and then I saw really how deep the cut went. At that point I recognized that with this kind of cut on my strongest finger on my strongest hand, my climbing was done for the day. 

Luckily my grandma was a nurse and when I came back to the house she patched me up nicely. Overall i’m very pleased with my day, even if I didn’t get the V7 i wanted to get, I got a really cool one that I didn’t even plan on doing today. I’m trying to enjoy the process on these kinds of days, really put some energy into focusing on the technical beta rather than the overall sending of a problem. Luckily the injury will have some time to heal while I snowboard with my grandpa over the next couple days, but I fully intend to go back and send Sunday stroll V7 before I leave Durango!

1 Comment

1 Comment

Day 4: Highway to the mountains

Finally in a bed!!!! I made it to my grandparent’s house in Durango, CO today! Not to say I didn’t love sleeping in my Bronco in the cold, I just really enjoy showering and sleeping on things that are designed to be slept on. 

I woke up this morning several times; 3am, 5am, and finally 7am and I figured that was an appropriate time to start my day. It was a pretty chilly morning, but I made sure to take in the last little bit of Hueco I could before leaving. Driving all day doesn’t really leave much to write down about the day, it was a fairly standard day of driving.. I drove for 8 hours and at the end of that I was in Colorado. I’m not very fond of New Mexico’s speed limits I can say that much at least, and there are way more police on the long stretches of highway than I anticipated. 

When I arrived at my grandparent’s house I showered for the first time in 5 days and then edited some pictures till it was time for dinner. Grandma always makes the best food and I’m really looking forward to eating well this week. Sorry this isn’t a more entertaining day, but hopefully I make up for it later in the week!

1 Comment