Friday, August 31, 2007

Tahquitz and Suicide Rock

Earlier this month my friend Justin and I packed up the truck and headed to Idyllwild to see what all the fuss was about with Tahquitz and Suicide Rock. Right off the bat we were impressed with the 45 degree uphill hike that put a burn in our legs and about drained half of our water supplies. Our first day we hit Suicide Rock and climbed a mellow two-pitch route to get a lay of the land and give me a chance to get my trad feet back under me. It had been almost two years since I was climbing trad regularly out at the Gunks and I had only placed gear once or twice since out at Joshua Tree.

Suicide Rock was amazing and the climbing was excellent with great gear placements. Everything was super sticky and the belay ledges were comfy. Not to mention, the views were spectacular.

Day two we headed straight to Tahquitz with a very slow start in our day not even reaching the crag until about noon. We decided to take down an “easy” multi-pitch 5.7 on the north side of the rock. Pitch one was kinda dicey in that I definitely didn’t have enough small pieces to be on that route and had to get creative and run it out at the top. The belay ledge was confusing in that it seemed non-existent, was very uncomfortable and there weren’t great placements to make it a relaxing experience.

Next, I headed off on pitch two where I was about twenty feet from the next belay ledge and about fifteen feet run-out before I realized there were no placements under a #4 cam, which I had none of. Evidently, the guide book stated you need plenty of small pro and up to a #4 cam. Ooops.

At this point I didn’t feel like taking any more chances and getting to a belay ledge where I had no pro that would fit and would be belaying for a beginner who was only on his second day of trad climbing and maybe sixth day of climbing at all. We were also out of water, baking in the sun…the list of excuses goes on and on. Instead of continuing to run it out and top the mysterious route, we decided to bail – submitting to Tahquitz.

Regardless if I got put in my place, we got some great experience out of it and enjoyed the time we had on the rock and in Idyllwild. Overall I highly recommend the area, but would definitely suggest you climb only the starred routes, which this was not one of.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Merrick Ales gets cover shot on Rock & Ice

Merrick Ales, a photographer in Austin, Texas, is known for having a picture or two grace the pages of climbing magazines, but this time his shot earned him September's cover of Rock & Ice magazine. The shot of Andrew Oliver soloing a route over the waters of Lake Travis is definitely spectacular.

Water soloing in the area isn't new, but its long been a local secret that rarely made it outside of the Texas borders. The proliferation of water soloing on the lake outside of Austin has grown dramatically as people like Andrew, Merrick, Rick and others have been searching high and low for new rock in the Texas Hill Country.

I highly recommend grabbing your floaties, a pair of old shoes and cooler and hitting the cliffs of Lake Travis.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Texas Limestone Bouldering Guide Book

In late September Jeff Jackson's new "Texas Limestone Bouldering" guide book should be arriving on the shelves of Whole Earth Provision Company, REI and other Texas outdoor shops. You can also order an e-copy today if you just cannot wait to get your hands on it.

According to Sean's site,, the book will cover "nearly every" boulder problem in the areas covered (central and north Texas) and includes 1,350 routes with just about any rating known to climbers. The book goes at $24.95 plus shipping and handling unless you pre-order getting it at a cool $12.

Here's the description posted on erockonline, which is also found in the link below:

"Jeff Jackson's magnum opus comes in the form of Texas Limestone Bouldering. This book covers so many areas around Texas that the local and visitor alike will never be without a new project at every destination. Complete with amazing pictures from local Austin photographer Merrick Ales, a forward by Andrew Bisharat from Rock and Ice, and excellent maps and topos, this guidebook is a must have for anyone who has ever carried a pad on their back! Descriptions are included for nearly every problem."

I just ordered mine. Stay tuned for a review later this fall.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Elvis was at Devil's Punchbowl

Okay, so it wasn’t actually Elvis, but Elvis was invoked by my legs as I found myself run-out on a slab route in the blazing heat at Devil’s Punchbowl, a conglomerate crag outside of Los Angeles.

It was so hot the other day when a climbing partner and I went out to no man’s land to get a change of scenery from the local crag. The sun was beating us down and the dirt was so dry it felt like we were walking in an ash tray, but the climbing was still excellent.

We got our warm ups in and even sent a stiff 5.11 with a slabby crux before heading to the true 5.10 slab routes. We were super dehydrated and worn out from the sun when we decided to test our balance and mental strength. As I cruised through the bottom section, and even through the crux slab section leaving me a little over five foot run-out I was fine. It was when I got about 15 foot run-out when Elvis started playing.

I had made it through all the hard part and was on pretty descent sized holds when I decided to look down and see my rope blowing in the desperate wind leaving me to believe a fall would deliver me about 30 feet down and about 10 feet above the ground (before rope stretch). All of the sudden those big holds didn’t seem good enough. I have to give myself some credit, the rock wasn’t as solid as you would like, but still, I feel like I should have the experience to hold it together and not get the Elvis Leg Syndrome in that situation.

Since then, most of my training has been mental. Went out to Tahquitz and Suicide Rock to run-out some trad routes on easy grades (more on the successes and failures of that trip to come), have been pressing for hard top-outs at the gym and went bouldering today at Horse Flats where there were plenty of high-ball bouldering problems. So far it seems to be helping, but if anyone has any other tips for strengthening your mental…please comment with your beta.