An Update

Climbing-related blogs such as this one exist mainly as a forum in which their authors can brag, however understatedly, about how badass they are.  Unfortunately, I’ve been decidedly un-badass lately; hence the lack of recent posts.

However, in the spirit of blogging, I’ve decided not to let the fact that I have nothing to say stop me from writing at some length.

First, a couple of photos from Red Rocks, which was the final destination for Karina and I on our spring roadtrip.

Karina following the final corner on Cloud Tower.

In Las Vegas, we stayed in a rather deluxe hotel (by my standards anyways) for a measly 15 bucks a night.  After being subject to Utah’s draconian liquor laws, it was a shock to wander the streets and feel as though we were the only people not drinking sickly sweet alcoholic concoctions from neon plastic beakers.

In the morning, we’d walk through the casino, it’s air sanitized to mask the chain-smoking of the old women who sit at all hours in front of the slots.  On the street, discarded cards advertising call-girls would obscure the pavement.  Driving along Charleston felt like running a gauntlet as the smug faces of lawyers, politicians, and even doctors stared down from billboards.  The hangover in Vegas is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Karina cruising along, somewhere on Crimson Chrysalis. It's a wonderful route, if you're as lucky as we were and get to enjoy it in relative solitude.

Moralizing aside, Vegas is a fascinating city.  The scale of the place is undeniably impressive. Walking the length of the strip is more grueling than just about any approach in the nearby canyons.  I can understand why people find the glamour attractive.  Why they might want to pretend to be high-rollers as they gamble away their meagre savings. And I’ll admit that I think the Bellagio fountains are pretty neat.

Somehow though, I always find Vegas to be a bit disappointing. It’s a place where most things are permitted and money is (or at least was) no object.  It’s Disneyland for adults. The possibilities should be endless, if not entirely wholesome.  But the whole apparatus seems a bit unimaginative to me.  The scheme to separate you from your money is the same wherever you look, though the decorations may change.  And the sins are the same old universal ones; sadly there are no new sins awaiting discovery in Sin City.

Yes, this man has climbed El Cap. Seth Adams masters the art of the lower-out while jugging the Shadow pitch on U-Wall. There was not much free climbing going on for me on this day and we bailed after this pitch.

Since returning from the desert, the weather in Squamish has been rather uninspiring. I’ve been bouldering more than ever, motivated predominantly by a desire to tick as many problems as possible from the “Top 100” list that appears in the newest Squamish Bouldering guide (here are some slightly more humorous lists).

Karina climbing Survival Enhancement on the Papoose.

Though I’ve not always held a particularly charitable opinion of bouldering (likely because I’m a terrible boulderer), I’m beginning to develop a reluctant appreciation of it. Standing on top of a boulder that you’ve managed to claw your way up after countless attempts results in a feeling of instant gratification; the kind of feeling that you ought to get from standing on top of a big peak, but seldom do.  Often when climbing on a rope, I find that I focus a great deal of mental energy on not falling.  I arrive at the anchors relieved not to have fallen, but not particularly elated.  With bouldering, where falling is the rule and not the exception, the occasional successes are remarkably satisfying.

Tony McLane making an onsight attempt on El Indio. His Dad made the first ascent of this route more than 25 years ago. Tony made it through the bold lower section but ran out of steam on the upper headwall.

Of course, not all boulder problems are safe to fall from repeatedly.  I’ll admit that I often seek out these “highball” problems.  Perhaps I’m trying to prove that in spite of taking up bouldering, I haven’t gone completely soft (as proof that bouldering doesn’t make you soft, here’s a photo of two of the world’s best alpinists – and Seth Adams – bouldering in Squamish).

One such problem is called No Excuse for Porn Hair.  I tried it one day with no warmup and surprised myself by making it to the lip of the boulder on my first go.  Tony, who had done the problem before and was there spotting me, assured me that once at the lip, the problem was effectively over.  The guidebook, as I discovered later, takes a different view and describes the mantel as “adrenaline charged”.  In any case, I threw my toe up on the lip, rocked my hips over it, and had pretty much completely stood up when for some reason my foot slipped.  I went flying off backwards and completely overshot the pads. Thankfully, the area beneath the boulder is a dried-up puddle and when I landed feet-first, the soft soil cushioned the impact and left me shin deep in muck.  Cleaning off my shoes was such a pain that I made sure not to fall the next time around.

Demonstrating how not to sport climb on 14 Shutouts in Skaha.

A few weeks ago, Stefan Albrecher and I embarked on what promised to be a very grueling ski traverse.  Thinking that we’d be skiing for close to 24 hours, we left the trailhead at midnight, having consumed large quantities of caffeine.  Sometime just before dawn, the caffeine wore off and Stefan curled up in a tree-well for a short nap while I sat huddled on my pack, rocking back and forth and awaiting the first hint of daybreak.  Our motivation completely evaporated shortly thereafter and we turned around (but not before taking another nap).

Hannah Preston climbing on New Life, a great route on the North Walls of the Chief.

There have been just enough nice days lately to remind me of what great place Squamish is when it’s sunny.  Hopefully there’s more sun on the way so that I have something more exciting to brag about on the internet in the near future.

Looking out towards Howe Sound. Karina climbing on Jer Frimer's new route Skywalker.

Looking north, up the Squamish Valley. Jesse Mason climbing on Nonsensical, a relatively obscure route on the Squaw.

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One Response to An Update

  1. Sarah says:

    Nick,

    Excellent post per usual; however, you better stop your shit talking about bouldering, or I won’t boulder with you anymore! Hahahaha.

    Sar

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