Saturday, June 2, 2007

"No Hiding from the Tor"

You know how sometimes a story unfolds non-linearly? That's how my birthday challenge felt...

Lena and I went to sleep at 8:00 pm Friday night after preparing everything we could for the challenge and party afterwards. We awoke at 3:30 am, ate breakfast (oatmeal), and hit the road at about 4:15 am. We got to the Owl Tor at 6:00 am. Bob, Normal Guy, and Jonathan (Kingston) had camped out the night before. I started the first route at 6:15, 15 minutes behind schedule. There was awesome light on the wall and conditions were perfect. The first 21 laps went down without incident. Each lap was taking about 5 minutes, which is what I had planned.
    On lap 22, my first lap on White Cougar, I bonked hard. It took me 25 minutes to get to the top. I drank a lot of water, took a little bit of extra rest, and tried a lap on Auto-Magic. One move in I had a massive stomach cramp. I've had a lot of these over the years, but this was by far the worst. It took me two hours to recover from. I clearly hadn't been drinking enough water. I finished the day by doing nine laps on The Power of Eating, to finish with 30 laps total.
    Lena drove me home, and I was pretty depressed. I knew I could have done better, definitely 35 laps, if I would have hydrated better. Forty was possible.

Lena arranged a great party that started about 15 minutes after we got home. She made the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had, ordered cupcakes from Jeaninne's, and brought food and beer to the climbing area. I tried to be a polite host, but I was busy wallowing in my defeat.
    Around 11:00 pm we sat down for a slideshow Jonathan had prepared. Watching his photos of the day, the story finally made sense. Jonathan had driven down from Bend, Oregon, arriving at 2:00 am and waking up at 6:00 am because, as he said, "someone's got to document this". Rob "Slappy" Norris, who I had not seen in over 12 years, also drove down from Oregon. Aaron Greene, Hans Florine and his friend drove down from the Bay area. My mom and her friends also came down. Steve Edwards and Ben Banks came from Utah. Dee and Steve Lapin and Belt came up from LA. Friends from work (Tom, Sven, Rick & Cia) that could care less about climbing drove for 4 hours to root me on (too late, since I'd already bonked). The standard climbing crew was there as well: Hawk, Paul, Elijah, Micah.
    All traveled for at least 200 miles to get to a god forsaken place of sand and heat. As Bob once said, "Everyone has friends, mine are better." Thanks to everyone, especially my lovely wife, for giving me the best birthday I can imagine.

Belt's photos

Bob's photos

Jonathan's Photos (email me for a DVD slideshow):


Chips in the morning sun


Lowering off Chips, its steep

Pro Skill

Pro Skill

Old Shatterhand

Hell of the Upside-down Sinners

Hell again






Massive stomach cramp

Chips panorama

Cliff panorama

Group photo

Saturday, May 26, 2007


None of my training days for the challenge were much fun, so today I took it easy, and climbed for fun. I redpointed White Cougar and played around on some other stuff.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Young and Older

One of the things I've always liked about climbing is the variety of people I meet. Saturday was a perfect example of this: I met Andre DiFelice, a 16 year old crankenfrank from Colorado, and saw an old friend Doug Englekirk who's 45 and still cranking. Elijah, Bob Banks, Hawk, and Paul were also climbing.

It was about 85 degrees and the day went well. I managed 23 laps on 15 minute intervals. Next week I'm targeting 20-26 laps depending on weather. These training days are getting a bit monotonous, so I'm glad there's only one left before the real deal.

Thanks to Bob and Paul for the photos.

Elijah on Chips

Me on the final, scary clip of Old Shatterhand

Me on The Old Pro Skill

Top clip on Pro Skill

Doug on Anchor Punch

Andre on Chips

Me on Anchor Punch

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesdays at Damnation Alley (aka The Shed)

Training on Tuesdays is 2-3 hours of climbing on the wall followed by an hour of stomach and upper body exercises. Photos courtesy of Bob Banks.

Front Lever:


Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Like Jogging to Work"

Elijah and Normal Guy worked on Atreyu, the variation that climbs Chips Ahoy to the jugs, then traverses right and finishes on strictly Ballroom. It's probably 13b or 13c. NG was complaining about the start on Chips, which you really have to get wired to have a chance on the variation, and Elijah told him "Hey, I hate jogging. The two finger section on Chips is like jogging to work." Watching Elijah on the finishing throw of Atreyu weight 197 was awesome (pic).

The Tor greeted us with great weather once again. My 20 laps went down pretty well on 15 minute intervals. (Laps: Power, Sea twice, Chips three times, ProSkill three times, Shatterhand three times, Cougar twice, Hell twice, Anchor twice, The Natural, AutoMagic.) I've learned a lot about the strategy of ordering the routes. Also, I've improved my diet so that cramping hasn't been too much of an issue. I added my estimated start times for the day of the challenge to my spreadsheet.

Many thanks to Elijah, Brian, and NG for putting up with my belaying requirements. Thanks to Brian and NG for the pics.

Me on The Old Pro Skill

Me starting Chips Ahoy

Me finishing Chips Ahoy

Elijah on the finishing moves of Atreyu (Strictly Ballroom)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Week 6

Today showed how weather will be the largest factor in my challenge. It was 72 degrees, 23 degrees cooler than last week, and climbing went great. The goal for today was to cut my intervals to 15 minutes and do the same 17 routes as last week: Power, Sea, Chips three times, ProSkill three times, Shatterhand three times, Cougar twice, Hell, The Natural, and AutoMagic. Much to my surprise, I completed all the laps and still had energy at the end of the day.

Crappy video of me on the Sea is all we shot this week. (Yes, that is Belt belaying me.) Next week is 20 laps on 15 minute intervals.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Excruciating to Touch the Rock"

That's how Elijah described the grim 94 degree weather. By far the hottest day of the season, everyone's motivation was down. I tried to redpoint Manny's new line, White Cougar (12b), but failed (video). That go also took up half of my 20 minute interval.

This was one of the most painful climbing days I've experienced. Every lap after lap ten was an exercise in motivation and pain tolerance. My goal was 17 laps. I completed the first 16 (Power, Sea, Cougar twice, Chips three times, ProSkill three times, Shatterhand three times, Hell, The Natural, AutoMagic). The final lap was on Anchor Punch, but it was just too much; I made it 1/4 the way up and lowered.

Today was the first day I really doubted my ability to do the challenge. Two reasons: skin and my left shoulder. I think I can alleviate some of the skin issue by starting at 5:30-6:00 am when its still cool. That way I can do the 12 laps of 12d before it warms up. I'm not sure what to do about my shoulder. It's gotten some better, but it still gets very tired around lap 10-11 every day.

Elijah set a new weight record on Chips Ahoy (12d) by redpointing it twice weighing 197 pounds. Very impressive. I don't know if Normal Guy or Paul had any fun. I heard a lot of bitching about heat, skin pain, and generally getting worked by the Tor.

Next Saturday's weather is supposed to be a lot better: in the high 60s to low 70s. I will be switching to 15 minute intervals, which I'm very nervous about.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Week 5

I added two links under Just The Facts, to the right. One is to a YouTube video channel I created. The other is to my workout spreadsheet. A few people have asked me what else I'm doing for training. I climb every Saturday at the Tor and train on my wall every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Tuesdays involve about 2.5 hours of climbing followed by an hour of pull-ups, front levers, and other core exercises. Thursdays and Sundays are 2 hours of interval climbing. I’ll try to get some training pics up soon.

Normal Guy, Wuffi (his dog), Paul, Elijah, Brian and I met Manny and the Rat at the Tor; perfect weather once again. Manny skipped a 50 mile run in Colorado to try and redpoint his new route: White Cougar. He looked good on his first go (video) and he won’t be the only person to fall at the chains on redpoint; he redpointed it (video) on his second attempt. He's calling it 12b, which means 12c at most crags. Normal Guy got the second ascent.

My day was a blur. I reduced my interval period to 20 minutes, which seemed ridiculously fast; a few times I had only 6 minutes of rest before my next lap. I did Power, Sea, Chips twice (video), ProSkill twice (video), Shatterhand twice, White Cougar twice, The Natural, Hell, AutoMagic, and Anchor Punch.

At the end of the day, Manny and NG tried a link-up starting on the Sea, traversing through Anchor Punch, then through Power, then through Shatterhand, and finishing on White Cougar; it looks to be a good variation.

Anchor Punch (12a)

Chips Ahoy (12d)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Week of the White Cougar

The day started out bad: Paul “P-Diddy” Dusatko, Elijah, and Hawk all had to bail. I pick up Brian “Lots of muscles and tats but no nickname” Spiering and we head up. Brian’s never been to the Tor; that means today will be fun regardless of what happens. The Tor isn’t like other climbing areas and it’s always interesting to see a newcomer’s reaction to the place. We’re meeting Steve “Manny” Edwards and Normal Guy. Steve will be trying out his new route White Cougar (~12b) which he put up specifically for my birthday challenge, thanks Steve. Normal Guy is hoping for some good redpoint failures on the new High Karate (12d).

The weather was great: a bit on the cold side. There were some minor showers, but that never affects climbing at the Tor. My 14 laps went quite well (Power, Sea, White Cougar four times, Chips, Pro Skill, Shatterhand, The Natural, AutoMagic, Hell, and Anchor twice). Aside from my left hand cramping severely on lap six, my day was pretty uneventful; just extremely tiring. My goal is to up the volume or interval speed every weekend without it feeling more difficult than the previous weekend. So far, things are going as planned. Brian helped out quite a bit by constantly cutting his climbing short so that I could stay on schedule; thanks Brian. He also took the photo below.

Normal Guy succeeded on High Karate, getting in three or four solid redpoint failures and Manny looked good on his new route. They actually had the energy to head back up on Sunday. Normal Guy redpointed High Karate, nabbing the second ascent. Manny came very close, but still fell short on White Cougar.

White Cougar (12b)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Training at the Tor Week 3

Mark “Hawk” Wanek joined Elijah and I today. Elijah weighed in at 199.8 so I chastize him for not drinking water and re-weighing. The standard warm-ups on Power and the Sea go well. I move on to four laps on The Old Pro Skill. Surprisingly, I redpoint it on attempts 3 & 4. Chips goes down next, but I have to replace two of the fixed draws and this takes a long time. I was on 25 minute intervals, and I get down from Chips with seven minutes on the clock. I rest quickly and do my lap on Shatterhand. After that its downhill: The Natural, AutoMagic, Hell, and Anchor Punch. I have to carry up a four foot long steel chain on my last lap of Anchor Punch. It feels like it weighs 20 pounds. I'm pretty beat up, but overall I feel better than last weekend. Today was 12 laps on 25 minute intervals, next week is 14 laps on 25 minutes.

Dee “D” and Steve “Wolverine” Lapen showed up with her parents from Rhode Island in tow. Steve did the third ascent of Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (13a). Thanks to Steve for taking all the photos below.

The Old Shatterhand (12d)

The Natural (12c)

The Natural (higher)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Training at the Tor Week 2

Morning stats: 176.0 lbs, 7.1% body fat. Elijah “Shamu” Ball weighed in at an impressive 201 last night. It's in the high 70's at the Tor, noticably hotter than last weekend. We do the obligatory warm-ups on Power and the Sea and head over to do out four laps on Chips (12d). Watching Elijah go up this route four times weighing 25 pounds more than me is both impressive and inspiring. After this, my ability to do basic math is gone: I know we did Power and the Sea and that's two, and I know we just did four laps on Chips, but I have to confirm with Elijah asking “We've done six routes, correct?” In the context of my challenge, a lap on Chips is much harder than a lap on Shatterhand, so I might rethink my final climbing order.

We do a lap on Shatterhand and then The Natural. Elijah bows out at this point, but its an excellent first day of the season. I proceed to do two laps on AutoMagic, one on Hell, and one on Anchor. Twelve laps total on the half hour. I'm totally devistated but have achieved my goal for the day. My arms and legs are cramping the whole drive home.

I bump into Elijah at dinner when I'm on my third vodka martini, he says “Yeah, I need a drink so I don't get sore.” Next week the goal is twelve laps on 25 minute intervals.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Training at the Tor Week 1

Chris and I head to the Tor. We have a goal of doing 8 laps on 30 minute intervals. (Thus, if a route takes 10 minutes to climb, you have a 20 minute rest.) The temperature is perfect, probably 72 degrees. We do Power, the Sea, and our first lap (of four) on Shatterhand. Chris is tired early and skips an interval for rest. We proceed to each 1 fall Shatterhand two more times, and I have another 2 fall attempt. I have six laps behind me, Chris five, and we’re very tired. Some of our laps took up to 13 minutes, leaving very little time for rest. We go over to Hell where we each do 2 laps, I redpoint it once. Next up is the newly created “Anchor Punch” (12a) between the Sea and Power. It’s all I can do to get up it twice. Chris does three laps to make up for the lap he missed earlier. Ten laps on the half hour, a far cry from forty on the 15 minute, but it’s a start. Next week’s goal is 12 laps on the half hour, including four laps on Chips and one on Shatterhand. On the drive home Chris declares my birthday challenge a “mahogany challenge”, a term he reserves for only the most difficult tasks. He clearly doesn’t think its possible (by us).

When the Sea Doesn't Want You (12a)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Warm-up Week 0

I'm not considering week zero as an “official” training day in preperation for the challenge. Chris “Normal Guy” Leube wants to try Hard Boiled (13b) and it's a nice day to visit the back area (aka Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong). We warm up at the Tor doing the first ascent of Anchor Punch (12a). We do three laps each on Hard Boiled (13b), no redpoints between us. We’re totally dead at the end of the day after only 5 laps. Also, my left shoulder is very weak and feels slightly injured.

The Power of Eating (11d)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Challenge

40 Laps on ten different routes at the Owl Tor (near Santa Maria, CA). This is approximately 1600 feet of climbing that overhangs a total of 650 feet, averaging about 12b/c in difficulty. (These will not be redpoints, I just have to do all the moves and hopefully all the clips.) The routes are:
  1. Power of Eating (11d)
  2. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (12a)
  3. Anchor Punch (12a)
  4. Auto-Magic (12a)
  5. White Cougar (12b)
  6. Hell of the Upside-down Sinners (12b)
  7. The Natural (12c)
  8. The Old Pro Skill (12d)
  9. Chips Ahoy (12d)
  10. Old Shatterhand (12d)

The Obstacles:

  1. Left shoulder is injured. Kevin Brown has looked at it and recommended rotator cuff exercises.
  2. Heat. In June it’s often over 100 degrees at the Owl Tor.
  3. Time. A lap every 15 minute is ridiculously fast, but 40 laps will still take 10 hours at this rate.
  4. Skin, work, marriage, et. al.

The Old Pro Skill (12c)

The Power of Eating (11d)