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Day 3: Sore skin & Trying hard stuff

Tonight i’m laid up in the tailgate of my Bronco feelin’ friggin haggard. Was such a tough day filled with hard climbs. I wanted my final day in Hueco to be good, but also I wanted to make sure I tested my limits as well. Boy did today tick both of those goals.

We started the day on “Shroom” (v9), a crimpy climb that starts low and has some pretty powerful moves before the easier v7 top out section. I projected the start of the 9 for probably 20 minutes but couldn’t manage to get the right arm lock-off start into the left hand high cross onto a sharp crimp. The stand start is a v7 that starts on the right hand sidepull jug and left hand on the sharp crimp. I was able to get the first few moves on the v7 and just needed to figure out the foot beta to be able to slap the far left jug. Sadly right after I figured out the foot beta and had the hard move locked down, my left middle finger got a gnarly flapper and that was my queue to move on to other climbs. 

We headed to another v9 called “Bathtub” after, and this was hands down my favorite boulder i’ve ever touched. The whole climb is mostly super positive slopers traversing up a face. It had some amazing sequences and technical parts that were awesome to figure out. I was able to do the entire 1st section but unable to link it into the middle sequence. I worked from the middle to the 2nd to last move pretty well, I definitely think with some endurance and core training it would go on my next trip out here. 

After working Bathtub we headed to “Crash Dummy” (v7) which Brandon said was his favorite 7 he’d done, so I was pretty excited to try it out. At this point my toes and hands were really feelin’ the fact that I had been projecting for 3 days straight basically. I wish I had tried it earlier in the day or maybe just had a rest day before trying it, but I didn’t have those options. I made the best out of my tired muscles and the fact that every body part was very sore from climbing so much. I was able to do the entire underbelly up to the 2nd left hand bump into the crimp side-pull, but ultimately couldn’t keep my arms from giving out when going for the 3rd bump to the pinch. I was overall pretty happy with the progress I made, being as tired as I was. 

Even though nothing went today or yesterday, I projected hard and gave the climbs my hardest effort I could, and I’m happy with my attempts and psyched to send these things on my next trip to Hueco. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and drive to Durango and stay with my grandparents for a week. I’m really excited about having a real bed to sleep in, and unlimited showers haha, having grandma’s cooking will be amazing too for sure. Hopefully be getting some more climbing in at Sailing hawks up there and some days of Snowboarding before heading off to Boulder!

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Day 2: Attempts & Failure

I write to you tonight from a subway parking lot in the front seat of my Bronco. The wifi is kinda bad right now at Pete’s so I drove into town to restock on burritos and write. 

Today was pretty nice. I did my 2nd day ever on North Mountain which was cool, having not sampled any of the climbs my first time on North, 2 years ago. I got started on the Warm up boulders at the top of the chains and did a high ball v1 or something, i’m not really sure what it was it just felt fairly easy. I moved on to DDD (v7) for my first real climb of the day. Initially I had thought that the swing out move was the crux, but that’s totally not the case at all hahah. I had an incredibly hard time getting to the 2nd hold and realized fast that this route was not the thing for me. Luckily there’s another v7 right around the corner “Babyface” which is completely my style. A vertical, tech-y, crimpy, long move thing that I really enjoyed working the moves on. I probably projected it for at least 2 hours, slicing some nice holes in my right ring finger from the start hold. I was able to make it to the crux pinch several times but had a hard time keeping my right toe on which ultimately led to me not sending it today. It feels really solid, and i’m sure with some more work it’ll go on a later attempt. After that Brandon and I walked over to Fern’s Roof and worked the v9 that’s there. It’s the first v9 i’ve touched and it felt fairly powerful and hard, which isn’t exactly what I was looking for after projecting for 2 hours. I only tried it for maybe 4-5 attempts and concluded that it wasn’t for me today. We finished our day in the Martini Cave which was super rad looking. I worked on “Big Iron on his hip” (v7) for a few tries but I was pretty zonked out from projecting so I swapped to taking photos of Brandon and the other climbers in the cave. Got some solid pics that i’ll be sharing on my Instagram later on this weekend probably, but i’m probably most psyched on the photos more than anything today. 

Overall a fairly rewarding day. I worked on some hard stuff making solid progress on most the things I tried, and got some dope pictures of people in the Martini cave. Tomorrow we’re going to West mountain to try some long, endurance-y V6s and maybe another V8. We’ll see. I’m gonna destroy this burrito and discover how many layers it takes to be comfy on this cold night. 

 

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Day 1 of my travels to Wyoming

Today was the first day of my travels along the way to Wyoming. I’m writing this in the back of my 1998 Ford Bronco laid up in a sleeping bag. I’m just slightly too tall to fit in the back diagonally and it makes for some interesting positions to wake up to in the middle of the night. I rolled in last night around 3am Dallas time after some intense driving in the high winds on the last few hours of the trip. I still haven’t perfected the fung-shway or however you spell it of situating the back area with all my gear while I sleep. It’s like a Jenga tower in here kind of haha. 

I woke up today around 7:45 just before my alarm went off. I drove into Hueco like i’ve done so many times and met my guide Brandon at the gates. Since it’s just me in his guided tour these next couple of days, I asked him if he had any things he was projecting that we could hop on today. He told me about Crimping Christ (v10) and we set off to go warm up on some nice V2’s and 3’s. We did some cool 2’s and a rad V4 to the left of Hector in a Blender and then worked our way up to Crimping Christ. Brandon showed me the beta on it and I felt the holds, which were incredibly sharp by the way. I gave it a few burns, but only making it to the first hold each time. Brandon was able to send however and it started our day off with some hype that kept spirits high thru the day. We moved on and got a cool slope-y V5 along the way to next area we were headed to. 

Finally Brandon brought me to a V8 called “J-Lo” like the singer I assume. It was an awesome route to say the least; Starts on a low jug rail, with feet starting with a low left and a heel hooked right that kinda cams into the wall. You slap into a sloper hueco with the right hand and gaston a left slope-y thing. The next move is a high right toe onto a small horn and putting your knee into the sloper hueco your right hand is in. Then you slap a left hand onto a small peanut like hold and slowly move your right hand up to a very small crimp. The crux is letting the knee bar out and controlling the barn-door long enough to throw your left hand up to a SUPER jug. I was able to send this after an hour-ish of projecting, which is my first V8 send ever. 

After that send we took it easy, I think I send one more V2 and Brandon got a V6 and then we hiked out to the cars. I’m pretty zapped from the lack of sleep last night and INCREDIBLY hungry so I finish my night off with a Burrito and some Oreos while typing this up. 

It’s only my first day on this trip of mine, but I can’t think of a better way to start it off than with my best day of climbing yet probably. I hope you continue to read about my days as I continue on my travels, please email... I get lonely.

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Stories You Can See

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Stories You Can See

I enjoy telling stories, ask anyone who has gone on a trip with me. Stories are how I relate to people, they're how I determine what kind of a person you are. They're how I know if we can be compatible friends, and they're how I judge a person's character. You can determine how adventurous people are, how confident, how funny, how sweet or intelligent they are all from the type of stories they tell you. To go even further I believe you can judge a man's character based off his stories, they're a road map to what he's proud of and where he's been. 

Stories are my thing. I think it originates from my father telling me stories of when he was a kid growing up. They aren’t very happy stories sometimes, but they’re stories of struggle and triumph, they’re stories that inspire. That’s what a good story does, it inspires you. 

Something i’ve enjoyed recently is photography. It has a unique way to capture a moment in time and allows me to look back at and recollect my experiences. I’ve really enjoyed telling stories through my photography, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos from the past 6 months with little stories attached to them. I hope you like em

 

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This is Ian. I took this picture at the base of Mt. Royal in Frisco, CO. The morning was chilly for me, not used to the cool temps, and we had both gotten slightly inadequate sleep in the back of Ian's Subaru the night before. On the hike up to the base we cracked our dry ramen packets and munched down on the dirt bag climber's delicacy. At the base of the wall I can remember not really understanding how tall 1,500 feet was but surely it couldn't be THAT tall. Just so you aren't also ignorant to the scale of 1,500 feet, the Empire State building is 1,250 feet tall. I looked over at Ian, an experienced mountain man, cool and collected he looked forward at our goal. I don't think either of us expected the 9 hour day ahead of us on the wall. 

 

As a climbing photographer I have to anticipate certain things on a climb. A hard move, or a cool technical thing a climber will do at certain points. This was actually the first time I had actually gotten to "shoot" a female climber, and I was lucky enough to get to shoot one as strong as Marisa. This shot was on a Sunday morning. I woke up to Marisa sitting outside my tent going "LETS CLIMMBBBBB!" It's always nice when a women lets you know what she wants. I had scoped out a few different spots for photos on prior trips to Cowell, AR but I liked this spot the best. This morning was especially humid and foggy and we had been inside of a gigantic "Ground Cloud" basically all morning. Needless to say the pictures were fantastic all day. While Marisa was "cleaning" her route, I yelled out to her "Let go and look like a Ballerina!" and this is what I got. I didn't expect how well it turned out, but that makes it all the better for me.  

 

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This is CJ, and boy did he have some stories. I met him at the camp site in Hueco Tanks, TX and it just so turned out he was on our tour the next day. At this point in time I was a very brand new photographer, but as most photographers do, I had several photos in my brain I wanted to take. This was one of those. This climb is Animal Acts (V6) and is probably one of my favorite boulders i've touched outside. What's so unique about it from a photographer's point of view is that I can focus on the climber's hand and it makes for a really cool depth with the climber slightly out of focus. On this particular route CJ told us about a climber from way back in the day "Alf" who is infamous at Hueco Tanks for vandalizing the climbs by chipping off holds or creating better holds on routes. If you're not a climber, chipping off holds is like destroying priceless paintings. CJ told us about the routes in the park named after Alf such as "Alf in a Blender".  There's always curious little histories to every place you go, if you take the time to listen to the guys who lived thru it. 

 

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This was taken on my birthday this year. My 22nd cycle around our sun was spent doing my very first "multi pitch" climb at Quartz Mountain in Oklahoma. Multi pitch climbing has been something I've wanted to do since I started climbing. It's tall and it's badass. I asked my mentor Mario if he would take me to do my first Multi Pitch for my birthday this year and he didn't hesitate in saying yes. This picture is at the summit of "3 Bolts" aptly named because it only has 3 bolts. I had a fairly large fear of multi pitch when I started rock climbing, and it always made me disappointed in myself. When I reached the top of this 200ft climb I was beyond excited for what I had overcome and finally had the courage to do. If you could see behind the camera in this photo, you'd see one hell of a smile on my face. 

 

Photography and stories go hand in hand in my opinion. The saying is that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but they don't mean anything without the tale to go alone with the picture. Stories are what gives our photos meaning and photos are what gives our stories depth, and that's what makes them so special to me. 

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Living the Dream

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Living the Dream

It has been an INSANE couple of months these last 4-5 months for sure. I've been inured, healed, and injured again. I've climbed with badass climbers, and sat on my couch a lot. So i'll try and get ya'll up to speed on what's been going on. 

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So in April I was at the peak of my strength probably as a climber. My fingers were strong, my body fit, and my confidence was pretty high. I was in the habit of not warming up very well before climbing my hard routes, which is a recipe for disaster if you ask any rock climber. So I walked into the gym one morning, and hopped on a few V4s for a "warmup" and then straight to a V8. It was a pretty laid back Slab climb with a hardcore left handed crimp around an Arete. I jumped on it and closed my hand around the left hand crimp, fired up to the Right hand jug, missed and fell off. Thinking nothing of it I went to grab the wall to try again, and as soon as I touched the crimp, pain shot into my hand from middle finger. It was certainly the worst finger pain I'd ever had, and I knew right then and there that this was a tendon or pulley injury. It's kind of funny that directly after you've injured yourself your mind can accurately determine the exact thing you did to mess yourself up. It's like your brain's way of saying "See! if you just used me you'd be fine". Idk why i personify my brain is a vindictive person but.. it is. Fast forward a little and i'm in a finger and hand specialist doctor's office and he's telling me a partially tore my A2 Pulley. I left his office with his suggestion that I shouldn't climb for 4-6 months and a confused, angry mental state. 

The next 2 months were pretty boring. I got re-aquainted to my xbox again, and learned a lot about how much climbing means to my life. I pretty much couch potatoe'd it up for those 2 months after my injury, feeling useless and boring the entire time. As the summer rolled around, one of my good friends came back from College and started working at the climbing gym again. I would go visit at the gym and talk with friends and mess around a little on the wall here and there but nothing serious. Going into the 3rd month of the injury I was climbing with easy routes with a carefully taped middle finger to try and avoid further injuring it. It didn't feel like it was getting any better but it wasn't getting worse either so I just kept climbing on it. At this time I also started hanging out with another climbing photographer from the Gym, Jimmy. We meshed pretty well and planned some trips with some friends to shoot some pictures. 

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Prior to my injury I had gone on 20 + Trips just this year, I was practically gone Friday thru Sunday ever week. Going into month 4 since my injury I FINALLY went climbing outdoors again in Austin, Tx. It was about 110 during the day and 85-90 at night, but I had a smile on my face the whole time. I've never been so happy to be drenched in sweat all day as I was that weekend. I hopped back on my old Project "Pay the Pump" and got about 5 clips into the route, still a proud send attempt for me for sure, having not trained or climbed in 4 months. I took some cool pics of new and old friends, and shared laughs and stories late at night. I was reminded why climbing means so much to me, it's not just the climb, it's the community and the relationships that come from it. 

Just like that I was back. If I just didn't climb routes with a ton of left hand crimps, I could still climb relatively hard. Immediately after the Austin trip we planned another trip to Arkansas, back to somewhere I had been previously with my bro Matt, when he sent Super Collider (5.13b). Cowell, Arkansas is one of my favorite spots i've ever been climbing for sure. The wall is super aesthetically pleasing, smooth faces and dark, shadowy backgrounds. Makes my job as a photographer pretty easy since everything in the picture is already gorgeous. I was especially excited for this trip, not only to be doing another trip with Jimmy, but because super strong girl Marisa was going as well. She's definitely been on my list of strong Dallas Climbers that i've wanted to photograph for some time. The trip was awesome as expected, with lots of laughs, great climbs, and even better pictures of these amazing climbers doing their thing. I even hopped on the 5.12 warmup at Invasion wall again to check how I was doing endurance wise since I had been "back" for a month-ish. Overall this trip solidified my decision to start climbing again, even still injured I could avoid using my bad finger and still enjoy myself outdoors. 

Marisa, cleaning Supercollider 5.13b, enjoying life. 

Marisa, cleaning Supercollider 5.13b, enjoying life. 

Proof that I actually am Funny in person

Proof that I actually am Funny in person

The last stop on the hype train for the last 5 months was the BAWS Festival in Dallas. BAWS stands for "Bad Ass Women in Sports" and it's a festival to celebrate all the kick ass women that fill the climbing and outdoor industry. The biggest part of this festival was that Hazel Findlay (Trad climbing superstar) & Tiffany Hinsley (A pioneer in women's climbing) would be speaking and teaching 2 clinics as part of the festival. I didn't hesitate when my friend and mentor Mario asked me to shoot the festival, who could pass up getting to hang out with some pros. What's always so surprising to me for some reason is how humble the professional climbers that I meet are. Hazel is a super chill person who was part of the crew for the weekend practically and I didn't even know that I was sitting next to Tiffany Hensley most of Friday, she's just quiet and laid back. It even turns out I would get to hang out with Hazel most of Friday and Saturday and got to know her a little, it was one of the cooler things i've gotten to do as a photographer for sure. 

Of course it wasn't just Hazel who I was psyched on meeting from the Festival. The No Man's Land film festival coordinators were incredibly nice and actually very impressive climbers themselves. It's part of what I love about being a photographer for these events is getting to meet the people behind the scenes because they're usually very hard working, unique individuals. One of them, Kathy, was actually IN one of the films featured during the festival, where she shows how much of a badass crack climber she is! 

Overall the past 5 months have been some of the most difficult & stressful months of my life so far for sure, but they've also taught me to appreciate my abilities and privileges in life. I'm so incredibly blessed to be a relatively strong rock climber and to have met the people i've met in the last 3 years of my life who've opened so many new doors for me. I can honestly say I would not be where I am today if it weren't for a few people who have looked out for me. 

SO That's where I'm at as it stands right now. Still climbing, though still healing, still taking pictures, and still living my dream. More adventures to come soooooooon!! <3 

Hazel and I, Thank you Jimmy for taking this &lt;3

Hazel and I, Thank you Jimmy for taking this <3

 

if you wanna check out any of the peeps from the festival I'll link all their websites and Insta's here: 
http://nomanslandfilmfestival.org - The organization that showed the films
https://bawsfestival.com - Bad Ass Women in Sports Festival
https://tiffanyhensley.com - Tiffany Hinsley's blog and website
http://hazelfindlayclimbing.com - Hazel Findlay's blog and website
http://escalandofronteras.org/en/ - Tiffany's organization helping at risk youth in Mexico

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/hazel_findlay/ - Hazel Findlay
https://www.instagram.com/tiffany_hensley/ - Tiffany Hinsley
https://www.instagram.com/nomanslandfilmfestival/ - No man's Land Film Festival
https://www.instagram.com/bawsfestival/ - BAWS Festival
https://www.instagram.com/zready/ - Roam Ready (Main Sponsor for BAWS Festival) 
https://www.instagram.com/inheadlights/ - No Man's Land Tour coordinator, Kathy Karlo
https://www.instagram.com/aishaweinhold/ - No Man's Land Founder, Aisha Weinhold
 

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You'll be Lucky

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You'll be Lucky

You’ll be Lucky

When Trent told me, “You’ll be lucky to climb V3” in Hueco, I must have had a big shit-eating grin on my face.  I’ve been climbing six or so years, and I climb V6 inside pretty consistently.  That and a month of real training had me pretty confident that I’d crush any V3 or below on my first boulder trip.  My goal was to climb V5 outside.  Let’s do this.

Day one we reached a warm up area, and I flashed V0, V1, and V4.  Suck it Trent.  

Then the day took an interesting turn.  Our next climb was Dragonfly, a diverse V5 left me bloody and hurting.  Then I got kicked off a V2, flashed V3, and gave everything I had to V4 Moonshine Roof while getting nowhere.  Even so, I was confident V5 was in reach.

The following day was unforgiving.  I didn’t send anything after warmups, and I couldn’t even finish one of those.  V4 Between the Sheets – no shot.  V3 Death by Mambo – close but no cigar.  V5 Animal Acts – please.  Day two down.

Day three was similar.  I gave V3 Burro everything, leaving blood on the rock but no send.  I didn’t even try on Animal Acts or Honeycomb because of a strained left bicep, and it was only at the end of the day that the guide took pity on me and called part of Star Power a V2 so that I could send something.  V5 had been in my grasp and then nada.

My goal of sending V5: Failure.  Hueco kicked my ass.  

But Trent was correct.  I was incredibly lucky to climb V3 in Hueco.  Swirl was my favorite send of the trip, and V3 it was.  I enjoyed working Moonshine Roof, Dragonfly, and Burro even more, despite not finishing them.  Each day I was in awe of my experience on that hallowed ground.

The process of crashing my mind and body against the rock resonates with me in some primal way.  The battle is important, the result less so.  As I sit typing, ten days later, I am still filled with the joy of the fight, and bursting with hope for the chance to climb there again.  The names of those climbs that shut me down are carved on my training wall, and my heart is burning for the chance to battle better against even greater foes.  

Thank you for inspiration Trent.  I hope I am lucky enough to climb V3 in Hueco again.

 

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Community

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Community

For the second time this year, I traveled to Hueco Tanks, TX for climbing. Hueco is a world class bouldering destination for climbers, but for me it's special for a different reason. Don't get me wrong, I love the climbing in Hueco. It truly is incredible--the vastness of the boulder fields, and quality of the climbs. But the importance of Hueco to the climbing community means people travel from all across the world to climb it's stone. The community at Hueco is unlike any other I've experienced at other climbing "crags".

Hueco Tanks sits about 20 minutes east of the city of El Paso, and its kind of like it's own little city. Tucker, Evan, and I pulled up to the "Hueco Rock Ranch" after our first day of climbing in the park and three guys stood around a fire in a barrel..what I think is lovingly referred to as a "Hobo Fire" hahah. My previous experience in Hueco this year was a week before the Hueco Rock Rodeo, which is a huge outdoor bouldering competition that pros and amateurs compete in every year. Needless to say it was very busy with people from all over getting ready for the comp. But this weekend there wasn't a lot of people. The bouldering "season" in Hueco was quickly coming to a close as the higher temperatures approached. Two of the three guys standing around the fire were the Rock Ranch's care takers (People employed by the American Alpine Club to manage this location). John & Clark introduced themselves and the third was a tall older man named CJ.

We started to make dinner and talked with Clark who immediately struck me as a very genuine, honest person. Often times in conversation people aren't really listening, but waiting for their next turn to interject their opinion in the conversation. Clark wasn't like that, he listened, really listened, like someone who is whole heartedly interested in something you have to say. He explained to us how he got the job managing the Rock Ranch and what he does during the days. Life lived in the desert of Texas strikes me as very lonely, you'd have a lot of time to yourself. Clark really showed that in his words. Everything he said he had definitely thought about. Tucker from our group is a teacher in a high school in Dallas, and Clark was very interested in the education system as a whole. It took me aback a little bit, here I was eating Ramen noodles, sitting around a "hobo fire" with a complete stranger who I met 30 minutes prior, having one of the most interesting conversations i've had in my life. Clark was very honest with us about his confusion in life and what to do after he was done at the Ranch. He told us he had been accepted into a Graduate program that does research on Sustainable Communities. I could see the conflict on his face. The conflict of leaving a beautiful place and being paid money to live a dream life to pursue a higher education that might not be better than what you already have. It felt very familiar to me, and probably to most people my age. The uncertainty of anything we do and not knowing if we can ever get back what we once had before. 

Clark doing his morning routine at the ranch.

Clark doing his morning routine at the ranch.

I commented that our guide had told us the wind would be "crazy" later tonight, and the second after I said that a huge gust of wind hit us, blowing the fire probably 10 feet sideways. We scrambled quick to put it out as to not light the whole camp ground on fire. The wind was easily 30-40mph and since it was just us and one other group camping out there that night, we decided to pass out on the couches inside the barn. 

The next morning CJ, whom we had met the night prior, had asked us if he could ride with us to the park, since he didn't have a car. On the quick drive over to the front gate to the park, he told us how he ended up at Hueco Tanks, TX without a vehicle. I've always thought about what it would be like to go somewhere without a vehicle, without knowing people, and wondered if I'd make it. CJ had a kind of boldness to him that I strive for in my climbing and personality. He was interesting to me, I've wondered several times what a climber's life looks like on someone my father's age. CJ had been all over, and could name off tons of old climbs he did back in the day. He had actually been a park ranger in the Hueco Tanks park in the early 2000s, living in the park and climbing. It was pretty cool hearing his stories about the early days of climbing in the park. A lot of the time you have to take old climber stories with a grain of salt...the community likes to embellish a lot haha. But not with CJ it seemed, he actually knew several people we met throughout our day on the mountain from the early 90s and could literally name every spot we climbed. He had definitely experienced a lot in his life, you could read in his face hard times and hard choices. It's been said that the two great risks in life are risking too much and too little, and CJ was no stranger to risk. One thing's for sure, despite not having bouldered in Hueco for some time, he kept up with us younger guys pretty well.

CJ reading his warm up route.&nbsp;

CJ reading his warm up route. 

Our guide for Sunday and Monday was Brandon. I had actually seen him on my previous trip guiding a tour while on a different tour myself, and my previous guide referred him to me for this time around. Brandon is a pretty mellow guy. He struck me as older because how mature he was, but he's just 23 years old. As far as guiding went Brandon, like all the other climbing guides, knows just about every single boulder that exists in Hueco Tanks. It's pretty impressive to be honest. He struck me as kind of enigmatic. I find myself always intrigued with these type of people because I like really understanding how a person thinks, and to me, being fairly high energy and talkative, a quiet person is a puzzle. I wanted to get an idea of how strongly Brandon climbs, so I asked him what his best send in the park was. He said "I sent Diaphanous Sea", and when he said it CJ's face lit up and he goes "Oh this guy is a freakin CRUSHER". Still not knowing the answer to my question I asked him what it's graded (How difficult on the "V" scale it is). He replied with "Well the guide book grades it as V12". To put that in perspective the hardest boulder grade to date is a V16 and to put that further into perspective, the hardest boulder i've ever completed is a V5. It was super impressive, but Brandon was almost uncomfortable discussing it. He was incredibly humble, which really made him all the more impressive to me. He had the attitude of a V1 climber, with the skill of a professional climber, it's remarkable. It really taught me that the more impressive thing is to be humble, and not to flaunt your achievements but to let them speak for themselves. 

Brandon climbing "Between the Sheets"

Brandon climbing "Between the Sheets"

I really enjoy watching climbing documentaries and specifically a recent one about the start of climbing in the Yosemite valley. A community of young climbers who pushed each other to climb better and be bolder than anyone previously had. I haven't personally been to Yosemite yet, so I can't speak to the existence of that culture still, but Hueco Tanks has that feeling for me. The people from all across the country and the world come together in this small spot in the Texas desert to climb and commune with the community. It's kind of cool actually, the history of Hueco Tanks is that people have always gathered there for hundreds of years because it's an oasis in the desert. Here we are hundreds of years later gathering in our climbing oasis. 

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Brain Training

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Brain Training

In the world of Rock climbing there are different levels of riskiness when you climb large walls. Top Rope is the safest, being secured for the entire climb, safely protected by a rope at the top of the climb. Next is Sport Climbing, or "Lead" climbing, for this type you take the rope up connected to a harness and clip the rope thru carabiners that are clipped to bolts drilled directly into the wall. Lastly we have "Trad" climbing (Traditional), this is the riskiest type of rope climbing  because you rely strong metal pieces that you place into cracks in the wall. The reason Trad is the riskiest is because it relies on the climber's knowledge of how to place gear correctly. If it's placed incorrectly and you take a fall, there's a chance for it to pull completely out of the wall and send you plummeting to the next piece of gear....or the ground. 

Something I struggled with when I first starting "lead" climbing outside was my mental game. I was pretty spooked on sport climbing anything outside for a while until I forced myself to overcome my fear. Trad climbing is a whole different monster of because the risk is there that the gear you place might come out when you fall. I've had kind of a love / fear relationship with trad climbing, where I really want to be a strong all around climber, but am nervous about taking the plunge into leading on trad. 

Quads were on fire after this one

Quads were on fire after this one

Going into my 8th week of non stop climbing and traveling, I heard about a guy in my training program taking a trip out to the Witchitas for some Trad climbing. He gladly let me tag along for the trip and we headed out early Saturday Morning. We got slightly lost in our search for "The Narrows" and we were lucky enough to tack on some mountaineering training into our Trad day...I choose to stay positive about our 20min detour. 

After arriving to our wall and consuming several Peanut butter blue berry bagels (The official food of a climber who forgot his food) Zach got geared up and ready to rock on our first climb of the day, a 5.6. The climb was a Dihedral crack where the smooth face of the wall meets in a corner of the side of the cliff. Zach cruised up the climb placing gear every 6-10 feet or so, what we refer to as "plugging it up" with gear. 

Zach placing some gear in the crack.&nbsp;

Zach placing some gear in the crack. 

After Zach finished the climb Amanda "cleaned" the route on Top rope. I had danced around with the idea of doing the route of Top rope first just to get the moves kind of memorized in my head before taking the leap into actually leading the route on Trad. But I remembered my first time sport climbing outside, and how I had wussed off a 5.9 because I was too scared to fall. I knew I had the strength and the climbing knowledge to climb this route, but this would be a test of my mental fortitude. So I racked up and dove in head first. 

The climb is pretty vivid in my mind, as well as my thoughts while climbing, so I'm going to pull the curtain away and show exactly what goes through my head when climbing something that gets me a little spooked. 

I walk up to the first moves of the climb, check my knot on my harness, chalk my hands, grab the first hold and pull myself onto the face. Zach had told me on the ground that I want to be placing gear every 6 feet if I could. He had this kind of look on his face that was like "Well I hope he can do this". I get up to the first ledge about 7 feet high on the wall, and pull my sling from my back to across my chest to see which "Cam" will fit the crack best. After some messing around with it I get in a spot I'm comfortable with. I notice that it takes way longer than clipping some carabiners on sport climbing, and that my right leg is pretty tired already with a hot sensation hanging out in my thigh. I keep going on up, the feet are a little more slanted than I was expecting on a 5.6, and it had me taking some extra time placing my toes on specific spots. I throw my left hand high up on the next ledge and mantle onto the top of it finding a nice spot to place gear from. This was probably 10 feet above my last placement so I made a mental note to try to place a piece about neck level into the crack and another piece a full arm's length above it. I'm feeling slightly spooked at this point so I increase my focus by putting some thought into my breathing, letting everything else fade out with only my exhale filling my ears. I get about 8 feet up from my last Cam placement and get situated in this indentation in the wall. At this point my left foot is secured on a slightly slanted ledge but my right foot is completely smeared against the flat face of the wall. I pause for a moment and look down at my last piece of protection 8 feet below me.

There's a point my mentor Mario talks about when you do large multipitch climbs  he calls "The Point of No Return", meaning you've gone too far up, there's no way to down climb...Going up is the fastest and only way to get down. This realization hit me about 40 feet up this wall, There was no stopping, it was game time and I needed to move quickly and precisely to avoid getting too tired to climb this route. I plugged in a Cam into the crack about belly level and got a higher foot to place another one in a small roof crack above my head. I continued to the right side of the roof crack pulling myself onto the face of the wall. I noticed an "X" had been marked with chalk on a deep jug which means "DONT GRAB ME - I MIGHT COME OFF THIS WALL AT ANY POINT". However this jug...was the best jug of all time.. and the X had been placed weirdly and could've easily been meant to mark rock in the roof. I decided to place my left hand lightly in this jug, while getting a high right foot and grabbing a small ledge with my right hand. Delicately walking both feet onto the face of the wall, I grabbed a cam from my sling and placed it in the crack about eye level. I could see the end of the climb just 30 more feet up this wall I had climbed 60ish feet already.

I traversed over probably 5 feet and mantled onto a small ledge. I stood up carefully on the ledge, glancing over my left shoulder looking at my last piece about 9 feet down and to the left of where I stood. I leaned forward into the wall taking my hands completely off the wall for the first time in 70 feet. Simultaneously thinking, "Man it would suck to fall right here and whip into that roof" and "Is this what Alex Honnold feels like when he was free solo'ing El Capitan". I careful twist my hips to the right and step carefully across this half a foot wide ledge, using nothing but my feet and balance to get me across. I got over to a bulge of rock with a nice side crack in it and placed another piece of protection. My legs were pretty tired at this point and started to shake, or what we call "Elvis Leg". The top was only 15 more feet up this, and very featured with gigantic blocks of stone protruding from the otherwise clean face of this wall. I recognized that this would be the easiest part of the climb and didn't waste a second, feeling a surge of joy that I had only a few feet between me and my first Trad lead, I flew up the last section of the climb. 

I grabbed the top of the wall and clipped my "PAS" (Personal anchor system) to the bolts at the top of the climb and yelled "OK I'M ON ANCHOR" down to Zach. Something I try to keep in mind whenever I'm climbing is that you're not done until you're back on the ground. A lot of climbing mistakes happen because people get hyped up at the end of a route and forget that it's still dangerous until you're on the ground. I lock my carabiner, untie & feed the rope thru the chains. When I'm safely back on the ground I'm ecstatic. The feeling of being scared and overcoming it while you're in the moment is like no other. 

I've done a lot of sport climbing in the two years I've been climbing, and even done a second ascent on a 5.12, but I don't think anything I've done can compare with my 5.6 Trad lead. Something about being nervous about something and the laser focus you get because of it just makes it mean more. I meant to put a GoPro on my head before I went up, but completely forgot, and I didn't get any pictures of me climbing it because I think everyone just wanted to watch how it went haha. I almost like that a little more than having photos or video, because I'll always remember my first time trad climbing on a cold, windy, day in Oklahoma. 

The view from the top

The view from the top

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What 7 Weeks of Travel Looks & Feels Like

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What 7 Weeks of Travel Looks & Feels Like

The beginning of my year has been amazing so far. I've gone on 7 consecutive trips to climbing destinations across Texas and the southern United States. It can be tiring to constantly go go go, but I take my opportunities when they arise because I never know if they'll show themselves again. Because of this I plan on being gone every weekend usually, and I tell people I'm not free from Friday - Sunday night, simply because I delegate that time for myself. Something new this year is the importance i've put on photography and using it to help tell my stories in a way that people can appreciate from a quick glance, and I'm loving it so far. 

Denis and our guide checking out a "Hueco" (an indentation in the rock)&nbsp;

Denis and our guide checking out a "Hueco" (an indentation in the rock) 

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Traveling at the beginning of the year usually means grabbing your lowest degree sleeping bag but this year the south has seemingly skipped our winter haha. It's made my travels to Oklahoma, New Mexico, and El Paso (All more cold than my native Dallas) not so bad temperature wise. Last year this time I was freezing my toes off in a 40 degree bag in Horseshoe canyon ranch with temps as low as 22 degrees...AND it rained on us! Needless to say God has smiled on the south this year and the coldest I've endured so far has been low 40s and maybe some high 30s at night. 

"Trent, don't you ever get tired??" something my friend Mo said to me while we were hiking through the massive boulder field on the side of upper Mt. Scott. I replied like Bruce Banner (The Hulk in Avengers) "That's my secret Mo....I'm always tired" as I turned into the incredible human hiking machine. All jokes aside, yes I do feel fatigue hahah.. It can be exhausting to hike to a climb, climb all day, and then hike back up the mountain to the camp site, like we did in New Mexico. The key is to not let it consume you, a lot of the time before I leave on a trip, I'm feeling exhausted from the week at work and school. I'll attribute making myself push thru usually to already having solid plans in place, but also to the fact that I keep my psych level HIGH!!!! I'm always hyped to get outside. 

Feeling a little tired after a 70 foot 5.12b at Sitting Bull Falls, NM

Feeling a little tired after a 70 foot 5.12b at Sitting Bull Falls, NM

Partially what I look forward to on these trips is the connections that are made. On the way to New Mexico, Doland, mentioned that he was interested in Rope Access work, and Denis just happened to know a guy who owned a company who need Rope Access workers. I kid you not, Doland called the guy as we shopped for food in a Carlsbad, NM Walmart and got hired on the spot. Later on in the trip when we went to Hueco Tanks, Doland and I would find ourselves sat around a campfire with two other guys. We sat and talked about the "soul of rock climbing" and a bunch of other hippie stuff haha. As we talked with the guys we found out that our plan to "walk on" to Hueco Tanks wouldn't work because all the spots would be filled before we could talk to the rangers. As luck would have it one of the guys we were talking to was a certified guide for Hueco Tanks, and would end up being our guide the next day. The guy was super awesome, and actually knew Denis from Baltimore when Denis worked at the climbing gym there. It was really cool to see how we're all connected in ways we don't even know, unless we connect with others.

Doland (Left) Denis (Center) and our Guide, looking at a few warm up routes in Hueco Tanks.

Doland (Left) Denis (Center) and our Guide, looking at a few warm up routes in Hueco Tanks.

Alec feeling good after a full day on the wall.

Alec feeling good after a full day on the wall.

The whole purpose of this website and me writing is to inspire people to get outside and be bold. I want to inspire adventure, because I've seen what it does for me and how rewarding it is. So far i've taken 4 people out this year who have never climbed outside before, and we had a blast. You don't need to be on my climbing level to enjoy climbing outside with me, or for anyone for that matter. A good attitude, willingness to learn, and persistence is all it takes to enjoy climbing or doing anything really. 

I love the life I live. I love sharing my passion with others through my writing and photos. If you ever want to learn how to climb, go camping, take cool photos, plan a trip, or just talk, we have a "Contact Us" page or you can just message us on Facebook!

Onto the next adventure!

Onto the next adventure!

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The Importance of a Road Trip

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The Importance of a Road Trip

I've done a LOT of road trips in the last two and a half years, mainly because of rock climbing. It's a lot cheaper to take my car that can go 400 miles on $20 of gas, than spend $400 to go to Colorado on a plane. As a kid, I would go on road trips with my dad to Kansas city to visit my aunt for the 4th of July every year. I spent my time watching movies on my portable DVD player while the hours passed by. Fast forward 15 years, I take a road trip every week to different climbing destinations across the Southern states. 

everywhere I  drove &nbsp;in 2016.&nbsp;

everywhere I drove in 2016. 

Road trips are sort of a special time for me now. I usually have 1 or 2 friends in the car with me and we'll talk from Dallas to Arkansas and not even realize the time that's passed. It's a super important part of the traveling experience for me now. If you sit and think about it, when was the last time you sat and talked to someone for 4 hours.. I know exactly when that was for me, it was last Saturday driving from Austin back home with my friend Frank. A lot of the time we go through life taking a few minutes every hour or so talking to someone and moving on with our day. Even your boy/girlfriend or spouse, I doubt you've spent 4 hours talking to them in a long while. I've discovered friends in people I disliked previously, found a gentle person behind a tough exterior, and all while behind the steering wheel of my Ford Focus. 

Myself on a 5.13b in Austin.

Myself on a 5.13b in Austin.

I also enjoy the road trip time because it helps me appreciate my final destination. Being from the concrete jungle that is Dallas, I don't have any outdoor climbing within 3-4 hours. I spend most of my time training in the gym with my outdoor goals burned into my brain. When I'm on the road to Hueco Tanks, New Mexico, Colorado or Arkansas (they're all 5hr + drives) I know that I've only got my short time in these places and then I've gotta go back home on Sunday. This can be one of the best motivators, knowing that you've got limited time in a place and you've got to make the most of your time there. And this can be broadened into a super deep "We only have a limited time on Earth so make the most of your short trip" analogy that rock climbing is FULL of, but I won't get TOO sappy on ya. Basically my hours in the car make me calm down and think about how fortunate I am to be where I am, and to be able to do the things I do. 

Besides all the warm fuzzy parts of talking with people on road trips, uhh I need people so I can stay awake. Despite what anyone tells you "OH bro I can drive forever at night, don't even worry." everyone gets sleepy driving, and especially at night. If you get in my car for a road trip and you plug in headphones and expect me to chauffeur you to our destination, you're gonna be paying me for it. Unplug from your devises and plug into the people around you, because it's incredibly unique to be able to have someone's attention for hours at a time without having to pay them. 

Road trips are about relationships, learning about your friends and partners, and appreciating your time. I think everyone needs a good road trip in their life to escape the go go go way that most of us live. There's no rushing the trip, we'll get there when we get there, just enjoy the ride. 

Horatio, Mario, Myself, and Denis&nbsp;

Horatio, Mario, Myself, and Denis 

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