Posts Tagged ‘climbing life’

Malibu Creek With Climbing Legend Peter Croft

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Kevin and PeterSaturday night I had the pleasure to watch a slideshow and talk given by Peter Croft for the annual  Ventura County Search and Rescue All-Team Training Event.  (Kelly and I  were guests, Kelly is a former SAR member).  The presentation was powerful, with amazing photos of the High Sierra adventures Croft has focused much of his career on.  Lots of Epperson shots, and Peter talked about Greg’s ability to blend into the background, documenting the climbing without taking away from it.

We spoke briefly after the Q&A, but later that evening as we were catching up with folks, I approached Peter on impulse and invited him to climb in Malibu Creek with Kelly, Cliff and I.   He said: “I did bring climbing stuff…. How far away is it?”.  I left thinking that we might, just might be sharing a rope with climbing legend Peter Croft the next day.

Well, as you can deduce from the title of this post , I got a call the next day from Lieutenant Kevin Hartigan of Upper Ojai SAR (A local legend in his own right).  He and Peter were game to go!

I was excited! We rendezvoused nearby and caravanned down to the big city.   After some tricky routefinding on the 101 highway 😉 we reconvened at the trailhead and hiked in with some light rain.  The five of us (2 SAR members Kevin and Emily, Kelly, Peter and I) met with Cliff (Also a SAR member and Kelly’s climbing partner) and headed to The Ghetto (aka Little Europe).

Peter climbs in a deliberate and controlled manner,  a joy to watch.   He navigated Malibu’s confusing abundance of pockets confidently, no searching with the hands or feet. I could’ve watched him the whole time if I hadn’t been climbing and belaying.

Peter Croft climbing in Malibu Creek

All too soon, Peter had to leave for another speaking engagement.  He shook all of our hands and thanked us for our hospitality.  No, thank You Peter!

Peter Croft in Malibu Creek State Park

Peter Croft in Malibu Creek State Park

Joshua Tree Climbing Trip Report April 1-6 – Multi-Pitch, Gordon Party, More

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Multi-Pitch Trad in Joshua Tree – April 4th, 2011

“I can do this,” I said out loud. There was no one who could hear me. Perhaps the two flies buzzing around me heard, but if they did, their only reaction was to buzz me again. I idly swatted at them, while simultaneously thinking that I shouldn’t let them bother me, and more importantly that I should ignore them and concentrate on keeping my feet smeared on the rock.

My left foot slipped a little. This was the second time it had done that. I looked down and to my right at the runner I had clipped into the one bolt on the route. It looked far away. It would be an unpleasant fall if I came off. I wanted to go back down to recompose myself, but down climbing might be just as hard if not harder than moving up.

One thing was certain, the longer I stayed where I was, the greater the chance I’d come off.

“I can do this,” I said again, “I can do this.” I looked to my left to make sure I hadn’t gone on another, harder route that had bolts. I saw multiple bolts there which matched up to the harder route description, I was definitely on the right route.

I needed to move. I pressed my chalked right hand on an indention on the rock face and stepped up. My breathing was not even, but I was still breathing. I made another move and then another. Nothing was solid yet. My feet and hands were on holds that had a bit of chalk on them, I wondered if I had succeeded in greasing them with my half-hearted hand hold attempts from earlier. I moved up again, and again. The rock felt more like Yosemite granite than the famed grit of Joshua Tree. Finally I attained my goal for my right hand, a slope with a small seam in it. The seam was not big enough for my fingers, but it was more than a dimple smear at least. I still needed to step up though. I maneuvered so I  could leverage my left foot up.

I made the move for my left foot and then performed a balanced standing move to get my right up. I was on the ledge of sorts, there was finally a crack starting up again, about chest high to my 5′ 4″ frame. I got a two finger jam in it. It was the most solid hold I had felt since before the small run out section prior to the bolt. I said to myself, “I’m not done yet.” Then I placed a cam in the crack near my hand hold and clipped it.

A sigh of relief. A shake of the arms and a bit of mental chalk applied. I moved upwards again. The crack was back though, it was my friend. After another move I placed a piece, extended it and clipped in then moved up. I was focused on finding the belay bolts, but there was a slight slope on the top of this crack, and I didn’t see any bolts.

“There better be bolts there,” I said out loud again, the rock seemed unperturbed by my threat. My nerves were pretty tired and I didn’t have much gear left if I had to make my own anchor.

Fortunately the bolts were there. I clipped in and made an anchor with an unnecessary back  up.

Thus ended the first pitch of “Right On”, the longest climb in Joshua Tree according to Randy Vogel’s latest Joshua Tree guide. It used to be called a 5.5, the newer book puts it at 5.6. with the 5.6 portion being on the first pitch. Comments on Mountain Project mention 5.7 R for the whole route and I noticed a notable climber posted about slipping before the bolt. I call the pitch, Class 2 fun and definitely not 5.6, at least not that day.

K and I were doing “Right On” on our 4th consecutive day of Joshua Tree climbing. We didn’t know much about it except what it said in the guide book Randy had given me just two days ago at Flander’s Fundraising party. We had picked it partly because it was near Ryan campground and partly because we thought it might be a nice relaxing, easy multipitch and looked like an aesthetic line with a great view.

One thing about Jtree, is that scale is sometimes hard to make out from a distance. Sure we have funky flora like Joshua Trees, but they don’t register as things that loom very tall in the way that pines do. When I’d said I’d take the first pitch of the climb I had known that it would probably be a little run out to the one bolt on the climb, but I figured, well it’s “5.6” it’s probably got big holds on the run out, and it doesn’t look that far.

I should’ve closely examined a picture I had taken of Saddle Rock the day before this. There are two climbers at the base of the climb in it; climbers who I’m guessing are taller than me. Maybe then I would’ve guessed that the distance was farther than it looked, maybe I might’ve seen that the rock wasn’t as featured as I had hoped.  Maybe, but maybe not.

Saddle Rock

K and I had already planned that he would combine pitches 2 and 3 (it was suggested in the guide that two of the pitches in the four pitch climb be combined) but after he came up to me on that belay station, he congratulated me on the lead, told me he had been scared for me while doing it, and then that he wasn’t decided yet on if he would combine the next pitches or not.

The belay station was slightly under the route of the 2nd pitch which went up and over a bulge before settling into a crack. I belayed for a bit, hearing breathing sounds and clinking of gear, eventually I heard K call out that he’d string the pitches together but also something about watching him. There was more breathing and less clinking of gear, and very shortly I couldn’t hear him at all anymore. Eventually I heard him call out an “off belay”.

The second and third pitch were very interesting. After getting out from the belay area, the crack slanted up and away in a book like formation which I climbed using part crack climbing technique, part chimney, part layback, and part over hanging technique. I guess a shorter way to say that would be proclaiming it was closer to off width technique than anything else. It took a lot of energy. I got to a certain point where I was secure and K took a picture of me before I had to stem over a chasm to reach the belay station. I was a little nervous because my legs seemed like they might be a tiny bit too short to wedge me securely but I got through it. Apparently K had used some of the face to my left to climb this pitch, which made it a bit run out for him and I’m sure much scarier.

K took the last pitch as well, it looked pretty easy, though he had a small bit of route finding and both of our nerves were a little frazzled due to the surprise difficulties on our pitches. I followed up no problem and then we were treated to a fantastic view of the park. We were already starting to forget the Fun Class 2 portions of the climb, but were not quite ready to proclaim that we’d to it all over again. It was enough to enjoy the view before attempting the down climb to find some rappel anchors that were supposed to be around.

How’s the saying go? At the summit, you’re only half way done? Fortunately the down climb was easier than it looked, and once I was off belay I found the anchor bolts right away. We rappelled one 60m rope length down then had a bit more scrambling to do before getting to the level of where the first pitch started.

By the time we got back to the car, we were already talking about how great the climb was.

Arriving in Joshua Tree – April 1, 2011

K and I arrived on Friday, two of our friends had already gotten a site in Ryan Campground after having had to spend the night in a motel Thursday night, it was a “zoo” they had said, not even Jumbo Rocks campground had had spots. We told them it was Spring Break and that with over 140 people RSVP’d for Flanders (Doug Nidever) Fundraiser party at Todd Gordon’s house, perhaps a lot of folks were out for the weekend for that too.

After K and I unloading some things we all went over towards Headstone rock, where our friend had said he’d seen some interesting cracks on the shady side. Shade was key, it felt pretty warm in the sun, temps were high 70s,  low 80s. Sure enough, there were some fun looking cracks. Our friend took one, and I decided I’d like to give another an on sight go. It looked like a fist jam sized crack with a sloping crack a definite ledge to rest on and then a crack finishing off with a gentle slope. As I started up it, I realized it was pretty gritty, probably not one that was climbed a lot. I got to a part that was on the slope which turned out to be slightly harder than I had predicted, mainly because of the body positioning it put me in with my arms forward and my feet a bit back. After that it was back to a crack.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my right hand, “Ow!” I said, “Ow, Owww!” I jerked my hand out of the crack, examining it, “Something stung me!” I said, suspecting that perhaps one of the bees that were buzzing around the bushes as the base of the climb had somehow flown up to get me. I stayed on the climb though.  The pain faded and I finished.

K laughed, “Eileen is the only one I know who says, ‘Ow!’ when she gets stung, anyone else,” he said, “would be cursing.” I smiled, I suppose it might be true, and it wasn’t that I didn’t curse, but well, sudden pain I guess just makes me say what I mean… “Ow!”

Down on the ground after a short down climb, I took an allergy pill, I always carry at least one with me because I am hyper sensitive to all insect bites (and stings). I was already suspecting that I wasn’t really stung though because I didn’t see a tell tale bump or stinger. I thought maybe it was a spider bite or maybe even a stinging nettle type plant that had fallen in the crack. At any rate, I was happy my hand wasn’t turning baseball mitt sized (which is what happened the first time I was stung by a bee).

I ended up trying two other routes on the formation, both fun and worth doing. We didn’t know the names of the climbs, but there was supposedly some 5.8s, 5.9s and one 5.10 on this side of the formation. It was fun to just do them and climb in the shade. We tried to find a site in Hidden Valley, but weren’t successful.

Todd Gordon’s Party / Flanders Fundraiser – April 2, 2011

One of the reasons I’d been excited to go to Joshua  Tree during this time period was because Todd was having one of his famous parties. Mutual friends of ours had attended these in the past (and we’d been invited) but timing had never quite meshed. Now ironically two of our mutual friends were both out of town so we’d be going on our own. A bonus though was that Randy Vogel would be there and he had a book for me since I’d just interviewed him. I recognized a few other names of folks on the RSVP list but one had called asking us for a ride which we unfortunately couldn’t provide so I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it either. Anyway, we were all still game to go, and I even had a shirt to donate to the cause, so we made it part of our Saturday plan.

First we wanted to get some climbing in. We went out to Hall of Horrors and all four of us did “Nurn’s Romp” and then when 3 of us rappelled down to “Exorcist”, I stayed up with the rap rope and rigged it so I could take photos of leaders on the route. “Exorcist” is a great line, a 5.10 crack that ends with a small blank area (it has one bolt here) and then a jug before finally finishing with another, bigger crack to the top. Even though I’ve  climbed this  cleanly, I have not led it yet, as I still need to figure out the bolt area to my satisfaction (only other climbers I’ve seen lead it can all reach the jug before I can). Today was picture day though so I literally hung out and jugged up and down my rope using a Gri Gri and a Tibloc. I did get one top rope run on “Exorcist” at the end.

After climbing and a short scouting hike to see if we could squeeze one more climb in, we parted ways so my friends could resupply before the party and K and I could see if we could get a better campsite. By the time we made it to the party it was 7pm. We parked a bit away from the house after a line of cars but could still hear the band playing. Fortunately I was still able to include my shirt donation for the table and we found Randy right away. The party was a lot of fun, we saw two live bands and a slideshow and bumped into more folks we knew than we thought would be there. We also made new friends and chatted with some true old school climbers. We wished we had arrived earlier so we would have had more time to chat, it was pretty inspiring to hear the BITD (Back in the Day) stories and to see these guys still partying. It was comforting because I’ve recently come to realize that I  might actually need “real rest” days on multi-day trips which made me feel “old” – but here were folks older than me and still going!

April 3, 2011

Our friends had to leave earlier than they expected. K and I packed some of our stuff up, thinking we might relocate to Hidden Valley campground. As we did we saw some of our friends who had been at the party drive by, one rolled down his window and invited us to join them on the back side of Snickers. We said we would after we cruised over to Hidden Valley to check for sites (and to see if Diane and Charlie Winger – climbers and authors of The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree –  had arrived). K and I went to HV and left a note for the Wingers then we headed to Snickers. Unfortunately we overshot the parking lot and ended up parking at Barker Dam. However this turned out to be a kind of happy accident as we ended up talking to a guy who had just pulled into the space next to us and was looking for rock climbers to photograph just for the day. Now, since I’m usually the one with the camera, I thought it’d be fun to actually be in some pictures this time so we said he could come along with us as we were looking to join more climbers.

By the time we got to Snickers we didn’t see our friends, however we did see a climb I thought I recognized called “Funny Bone”, which also had another climb right next to it that I hadn’t done before. As we eyed it some guys came up with the Trad guide book and we were able to verify that it was indeed “Funny Bone”. We offered the climb to the guys who had shown up since we weren’t on it yet, but they said they were a party of three and didn’t mind waiting. So K and I went up, no problem. I didn’t lead it after K had done as I was conscious of the guys waiting for it and thought I’d just lead it after they had finished. However we did set up a top rope for the 5.10 something climb near it so we could do that.

Well it turns out the guys had also gone to the party but had left early so we hadn’t met them. K did recognize one of them from SuperTopo though, and oddly enough, one of them recognized that I was on Twitter because “Steph Davis retweets you”. I found it funny that we were connected to these old school climbers due to internet message boards and Twitter. Who says technology divides the old and young or even outdoor and indoor people?

Back at Ryan Campground, K and I decided to do a quick run up Headstone to watch the sun set. Headstone, famous for its exposure, can still get the blood pumping even if you’ve done it before. The top of it is not a bad place for sunset watching, not at all.

April 4, 2011

This is the day K and I did “Right On” which is the story with which I started this article.

Prior to leaving for the climb, K and I had found a site in Hidden Valley campground, went back to Ryan to pack up and then headed to the climb. After getting back to the new campsite at HV, we started unpacking. Two figures came out of the darkness. It was Charlie and Diane. It was fun to meet them. I’d interacted with Diane on the Rockgrrl forums (as far back as the first incarnation of the forums even) and also on Twitter. This was further proof that technology doesn’t have to be something that outdoor enthusiasts curse but something that can bring us together instead.

April 5, 2011

K and I were thinking around this time that we hadn’t really had a rest day as we had planned. We had prepared for staying in Jtree for about 9 days like our previous trip but wanted to have a real rest day because we both felt we paid for it when we didn’t have one on that trip. However, we wanted to climb with Charlie and Diane so were game to go where they wanted. Some in their group wanted to go to Hemingway but Charlie and Diane wanted to head to Rock Garden Valley, which is where the four of us ended up heading. As we climbed and scrambled higher towards the walls, I couldn’t help but note that Charlie was like a mountain goat, he had no problem with the boulders and quickly did the route finding up the approach. K told me later than he figured out Charlie is 75 years old. He is one spry old goat if so! And talk about multi-day trips, he had come to Jtree from Death Valley and was going off again from Jtree to go to Red Rocks!

I really had a great time at Rock Garden Valley, the climbs were really nice. I led “Double Dog Leg” (not technically an on sight because I took a few pics while Charlie led it) and at one point on it, I had to adjust my thinking because it wasn’t a climb where you had to use the crack the whole time. We also climbed “Young Lust” though there was some debate as to which climb that was as Randy’s book looked like it conflicted with the Wingers’ book and memory. K and I ended up doing 4 routes each, with an added pitch for K on top rope. I want to go back and lead more in this area. While we were up there, we met two climbers from San Diego, one did his very first trad lead, which was “Double Dog Leg”, and his 2nd trad lead on a crack we were guessing was a 5.8. Here we were again at the intersection of new and old. From Charlie’s umpteenth trad lead to another’s very first. All while the rocks look on, for the most part, frozen in time.

April 6, 2011

It started to rain early in the morning. It was a light rain, but the dark clouds above us did not seem to be in any hurry to leave. We had heard rumors around the campground that the weather for Saturday was going to be a high of 50. We didn’t know if that meant this rain was going to stick around till then or if strong winds were on the way to accompany such a drop in temperature. K and I at first tried waiting it out, finally taking that rest day we had talked about. The Wingers, we figured were also figuring things out. Finally we saw them drive by, they told us they were headed into town for food, showers, the internet to check the weather and maybe a movie. K and I stuck around a bit longer. The rain started to come down in heavier squalls. Our immediate neighbor had left for town and had come back, his news wasn’t that cheerful, he confirmed the 50 degree high and added that wind was coming, he and his dog were leaving. K and I decided to pack up and then decide in town, we needed to buy groceries anyway. After we packed up though we decided to hike around to try to find some Joshua Tree climbers’ points of interest.

On our last extended trip we had finally been successful in finding the Chasm of Doom, something I had done once years ago but that K had started to think was a myth. This time around I was able to lead us right to another interesting place, the Iron Door. We also found a Hobbit Hole and a bunch of cool boulder problems. Eventually though we left for town. We checked the weather once there and found a dire prediction of 80 mph winds for the next day followed by a chance of snow for the weekend!

We both agreed that it might be neat to see and photograph snow on the weekend but it wasn’t worth sticking it out for the rest of the rainy day and then have to survive crazy winds for another whole day after it. We were going to get our “real rest” day after all, it would be spent driving home.


I didn’t really push myself grade wise at all during this trip, but I felt it was great mentally. My very first climb of the trip was an on sight, one that none of us even knew its name or rating. Though it was probably a 5.8 or maybe even a 5.7. I think it was a good thing for me to do (despite getting bitten on it) because it helped put me in a leading mind set for the rest of the trip. It was great meeting other climbers too who helped me see that it’s not all about modern grades and that one can keep climbing and finding adventure everywhere… which was definitely proven by “Right On”. It may have once been called “just a 5.5” but it was definitely an old school route and needed knowledge of many types of climbing to climb it well.

I came away from this trip both humbled and encouraged; and with photos and fond memories of old and new friends. What more can you ask from a trip to Joshua Tree?

~ Eileen

I have trip photos up here and here’s a video I put together with some of my pics and some pics taken of me by my friends.

Interview with Oakley Anderson-Moore Director of The Last Wild Mountain

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Oakley Anderson-Moore
Oakley Anderson-Moore

As a rock climber, adventure seeker, and/or a general outdoors person you’ve probably seen your share of adventure films. Sometimes they are adrenaline laden shorts or music video visual montages. Oakley Anderson-Moore set out to make a film that’s also a cultural history project about the roots of climbing in the US, interviewing climbing greats like Royal Robbins and Lynn Hill and traveling around the US like her father had done as a full time climber for 13 years. Oakley started climbing young, it being in her blood as the saying goes, so she stands out not only in the adventure film field but in the climbing one as well. Her film, “The Last Wild Mountain” is a “nearly finished roc doc”, it needs funding to be completed.

I was excited to interview her for

Q. Is there a story behind your name?

A. I was named after Annie Oakley, the crackshot shooter who became a star in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  She beat all her male shooting competitors, and even married one!  She could stand on a horse and shoot backwards and nail any target.  I try to live up to her legacy, but I don’t know if anyone can!  I certainly derive a lot of strength just thinking about her.

Q. Which came first, a love of film or a love of climbing?

A. Well it’s funny because I sort of grew up with climbing.  Maybe not the technical aspects of it, because I didn’t start leading until a few years ago, but nearly all my dad’s friends were climbers.  Many of my dad’s great stories involve climbing.  Climbing was kind of a part of me before I even knew what it was.

Film was something I decided I really loved on my own.  I love storytelling.  Communication, language, storytelling…the ability to share otherwise internal experiences with others is one of the most remarkable thinks about people!  Film is a relatively new medium for storytelling (compared to literature and theater) and that makes it exciting.  I love it!

Q. What was home life like?

A. I was born in Ellensberg, WA where my parents met.  We eventually moved to the grapevine area of California, and I spent a few good years with my dog and a bike and a lot of land with nobody around.  Those were good times.  Then all of a sudden my parents decided to get teaching jobs at international schools, and I transplanted to Sao Paulo, Brazil – a city of 20 million!  We spent the next 6 years in South America, Asia, and Europe.  I got quite an international education for a po’ country girl!  So as far as home life…my mom and dad have always milked their time to the fullest – and growing up it seemed like every weekend we were going somewhere!

Q. Did you notice any gender issues growing up?

A. The usual stuff.  I remember briefly playing on a co-ed soccer team…”Don’t pass to the girl!”.  How does that Charlotte Whitton quote go? “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.”

Q. Who are/were your role models?

A. I have so many!  My family, Thomas Jefferson, MLK, Oscar Wilde, Harriet Tubman, Bobby Kennedy, Alice Paul.  People who are willingly to challenge the majority and suffer as delinquents for what they believe.

Q. Who do you see (if anyone) continuing the tradition of the past climbers?

A. I think the tradition of past climbers is a state of mind more than anything else.  From what I can tell, they were motivated by seeking the unknown.  Today’s climbing scene with increased beta and gear and stuff can take that out of the experience.  But not necessarily.  There are still many climbers at either end of the ability spectrum who are seeking what is unknown to them.  You can be a 5.2 climber, go someplace where you don’t have a guide book and don’t know what you’re doing, don’t pay attention to grades, you can go up a 5.4 climb and still find yourself wildly facing the unknown.  You’re not going to be able to be that climber and go to Yosemite and find an unclaimed, easy line to name after yourself, but…well, some traditions aren’t meant to be carried on.  People who climb to challenge themselves as opposed to ticking off climbs or making a name for themselves, those are the people who come to climbing for the same reason as many climbers did decades ago.

Q. What’s your favorite type of climbing, favorite area to climb?

A. Crack climbing.  But no off-widths, yuck!  I have only started going there, but I really like the Red Rocks of Nevada.  It was a place my dad did a lot of FA’s in, so it resonates with me.  Plus it an absolutely amazing desert ecosystem.

Q. What do you hope your film accomplishes?

A. I hope it tells a compelling story about coming of age, experiencing life, and learning to coexist.

Q. Are you single?

A. My lips are sealed.  With a kiss!  Of death?

Q. Most unexpected thing to happen during the road trip portion of filming?

A. Well, while my 3 crew were catching some shut eye, I accidentally burned the brakes out while driving down Monitor Pass on the way to Mammoth Lakes.  It was scary!   It took us a day and a half to get to the top of this pass (the VW was averaging 25mph…so tedious) and when we finally made it, I was like “YAH!” and put it in neutral and just coasted.  Unfortunately, I soon found my self coasting down a sustained, steep, one lane 8% grade.  I noticed that – with my foot all the way down on the brakes – I couldn’t get the van to slow down enough to put it in 2nd gear.  Ahhhhhh!  Eventually Corene, one of my crew, woke up and rolled down the window and remarked, ‘woa it smells awful out here!’ (It was the brakes). We eventually were able to coast off into some dirt.  We spent 3 days in Bishop waiting to get new brakes.  They were completely gone! Fortunately, we were still able to make our interview.  It would be the last chance we would get to talk to John Bachar.

Q. Lately with the film festival season in swing the issue of women in adventure films has come up, mainly that there doesn’t seem to be many women involved compared to men, do you think there is a need for more films about women/made by women?

A. The statistics of women making films, adventure or not, is apallingly low!  This year, Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Oscar for best director in the entire history of the Oscars, and only the 3rd woman to ever get nominated!

One of the reasons why there aren’t as many women making films is because the film industry is shrouded in money and politics.  It takes a lot of money to make a film – and a studio doesn’t want to risk that much money on a ‘girl’ director.  In fact, anything risky in the slightest will have a hard time making it into a film.  That’s why the only movies you see in your local MegaTheater are the same old tired films that have been reproduced ad naseum.

That mentality is certainly changing as the technology to make films becomes more accessible and people (women included) who couldn’t get industry backing get a chance to show what kickass movies they can make!

As for why there aren’t more women in leading roles in adventure films…well its all sort of tied up in the same stuff.  And there’s this unfortunate idea that films about women are only films FOR women.  An action movie with a female lead is a girl power chick flick, not just an action movie.  Hopefully this will erode in time because the human experience should span more than just one gender, one race, one culture.  My personal philosophy is not that we need more films from different voices about different ideas and people that aren’t being heard in the Hollywood system.

Q. What’s next for the film?

A. Well, I think we can finish the film in about 3 months, if our Kickstarter fundraiser comes through.
Once it’s done, the plan is to get it shown anywhere and everywhere!  We’ll probably start by competing to get in Film Festivals, and see if we can strike a deal with a Distributor.  We will definitely do a cross country tour in there as well, and go to pretty much anyplace we’re wanted.  Whether we’ll take the Volkswagen again is TBD!

Filming for "The Last Wild Mountain"
Filming for “The Last Wild Mountain”

Q. What was the film process like?

A. I checked out all the books ever written about climbing 1950 and on, and then some.  I photocopied, cut and pasted, tried to put together many different drafts of working scripts for about a year.  In the end, none of that mattered because it all changed after the interviews!  Each interview was an intense experience.  Here you are sitting in the dark with someone, asking them to tell you not only their stories, but their hopes and dreams, and if they succeeded and failed.  Those are pretty big questions!  I can’t believe I had the courage to ask them, and they had the wisdom and personal strength to answer.  And ask them to please impart you with some wisdom about the world.  It’s a very personal experience. And from there is was a matter of selection.  Selecting material, trying to piece together a layered but coherent narrative.  With 100s of hours, it was very overwhelming!  It’s a lot to keep in your head, and sometimes you have to realize that the direction you wanted to go in didn’t ring true, and that is difficult as well.

Q. Any advice to female outdoor enthusiasts? How about female film makers?

A. As far as the outdoors, I probably have a lot to learn myself.  I still topout in the dark having forgotten my headlamp.

As for female filmmakers, I would just say try not to get discouraged.  There’s a historic thread that discourages women from pursuing the Math&Sciences, and film is one of the more scientific art forms because you have to use a little math & know a little bit about optics and electricity.  So there are people who will be skeptical and come in with preconceived notions about you.  That prototypical “Nick Burns the computer guy” character WILL come over and berate you for having plugged the coaxial cable into the wrong place.  Who cares!  Screw ’em.  Just learn your craft and don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do.

Q. What’s next after the film?

A. Retirement? Haha.  I don’t know, it’s hard to think about.  The only other thing I know a lot about is old time fiddle music/bluegrass, so maybe I will try to find a story there.  Like this current film, I don’t seem to be able to pick out the ‘blockbuster’ topics, but what the hell.  Life is short, might as well do something worth a damn.

Q. You’ve been incorporating Facebook and Twitter into your marketing efforts? What do you think of them?

A. They’re great!  It’s one of the only places where I can be on equal, or possibly superior, footing to another interest or company or big-budget film!  Reaching out to real people through Facebook and Twitter (where there is such a cool community of climbers) has been VERY cool and heartwarming.

Q. If you were interviewing yourself for your movie what would you ask yourself and what would your answer be?

OAM: So Oakley, tell me, since you’ve now achieved global stardom with your breakthrough crossover climbing culture flick, how has your life changed?
OAM: Well, gee that stardom and global thing…I wouldn’t exactly use those words…
OAM: Do you feel trapped by your fame?
OAM: Trapped…I’m not sure anybody has really ever heard of me —
OAM: Let’s get down to the heart of the matter.
OAM: Yes?
OAM: Tell us what people want to know.
OAM: What do people want to know?
OAM: Your social security number and the pin to your checking account!
OAM: I could tell you, but I honestly can’t think why that would be of any use to anyone.
OAM: Sure sure, well let me ask you this: where were you the day the music died?
OAM: I don’t think I’d been born yet.
OAM: Escargot or caviar?
OAM: Tofurkey.
OAM: Second gunman?
OAM: Most likely.
OAM: Wikileaks?
OAM: How can I join their team?
OAM: Who’s asking the questions here?
OAM: Why are you yelling at me?
OAM: You have the right to remain silent!
OAM: That’s not a question, you lose.
OAM: Oh fine.  What’s the one thing you’d like people to do right now?
OAM: That’s easy.  Go visit

Oakley climbing
Oakley climbing

Trip Report – 2nd Annual Jtree Tweetup, Joshua Tree National Park

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Just some of the gang! Thursday morning

Just some of the gang! Thursday morning

Last year I helped organize something I optimistically called the 1st Annual Jtree Tweetup. Climbers from all over the US and Canada came, we had a great time and I’d call it a success. But to really make it earn its name we had to have a 2nd Annual Jtree Tweetup right?


The plan was similar to last year, in fact scheduling worked out that we chose the same Veteran’s Day week / weekend. I was able to convince a local climbing friend of mine [Michael, who is now on Twitter as @ride395] to come out on Tuesday of that week to help me get some campsites. Fortunately a number of folks were arriving Wednesday as well to help hold down the fort.

So how’d it go? Well here’s a smattering of what I learned:

You don’t have to go to Griffith Park to experience Laserium or to a remote telescope station to view stars, nebulas and detailed views of the moon. Thanks for this discovery goes to Rick (@Jetforme) and his wonderful lasers and telescope and to Dave (@dmasten) for his Pink Floyd loaded iPhone and to both of them plus Aleya (@Blueskeyes207) for their space knowledge.

Patrick (@patrickgensel aka Shoeless Joe) has both good and bad luck. He left his climbing shoes in two different places this trip but got them back. He also left his camerabag with his SLR and phone in it in a car he was hitching a ride in (in the park). It was not recovered while we were in the park but we took him to fill out a form with the rangers and he got a call Monday that the park had it.

The Palm Springs airport is kinda nice.

The Thai place Urban Spoon recommends in Palm Springs is not open anymore.

Royal Siam Thai Food in Joshua Tree is not open on Tuesdays. [of note, at last year’s Jtree Tweetup we learned that Crossroads is not open on Wednesdays].

I’m not bad at this guiding thing but a big group with mixed climbing and Joshua Tree experience can tax the planning brain.

As an event organizer, a chart showing names, approximate arrival times and cars is not too nerdy to have.

Climbing the Manure Pile rock formation (the one the campsites in Ryan Campground are situated around) is fun at night. [Thanks Petzl Tikka Plus 2 and CORE system – review to come!]

Clif Shot flavors with “+ Caffeine” work well for fending off migraines.

I can lead Vorpal Sword with style (once the migraine goes away).

Handwarmers are pretty cool things and I don’t know why I didn’t think about bringing them to Jtree before.

Clif Luna bars with giant matches (provided by nice neighbors who left camp early and gave us stuff) make a cute Birthday Cake for Laurel (@mtsquirrel) [we also said Happy Belated to Adrienne (@adrienneknits)].

You can never have enough firewood in Joshua Tree in November.

Empty boxes of stuff sponsors provided can tide over a fire while someone gets more firewood. Thanks Clif Bar, Action Wipes, Boulder Canyon, Coach’s Oats you kept us from freezing! Thanks also goes to Eastern Mountain Sports but don’t worry, we didn’t burn the hats or stickers 😛

Speaking of sponsors, I learned we should also do plugs for Tweetup goers with our own climbing/outdoors related businesses: Me! (casual clothing, gifts, various water bottles, license plate frames, yoga mats, etc). George (Backclip: a climbing information website ). Aleya (cool climbing nut jewelry, website to come?). Bill (Urbanski Farms, website to come?)

Even if your throat hurts, it’s still worth it to join in on a song you know when it’s being played on the ukelele.

When on the “reach challenged” 1st crux of Gunsmoke do not: 1. Make a comment to strangers about your chalk bag being your “spot of color” after they’ve called you a Ninja. 2. Listen to your friends when they are describing your climbing with animal terms and one of them says “giraffe”. Doing either may result in FOTCL (Falling Off The Climb Laughing).

A cold Sigg water bottle placed on the head makes a decent migraine distraction, though not so much a stylish hat.

I should take my own advice and drink more water and wear more sunscreen.

I should check all the pockets and folds in all my bags that I brought in case the Flip MinoHD I thought I forgot… is actually there.

No two Tweetups are the same but they all have something special.

Climbers who are on Twitter are pretty darn interesting.

I think there is a demand for the 3rd Annual JtreeTweetup…

List of climbing areas visited during the 2nd Annual JtreeTweetup:

  • Ryan Campground
  • Real Hidden Valley
  • Hidden Valley Campground
  • Atlantis Wall
  • Lost Horse
  • Barker Dam (Gunsmoke)
  • Echo Cove

Pics from my cameras (mostly taken by me, those with me in them have the photographer noted in the captions).

Joshua Tree Weekends

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

This spring I’ve been heading out to Joshua Tree for more weekend only trips than ever before. So far it’s turned out great and we’ve been able to climb with different groups of friends (and crash their campsites).

I’m not caught up in terms of posting pics but here’s a video I made of the weekend just passed. It was K and my 1st Anniversary. We were going to climb locally and then go out to the restaurant where we got married but opted for a Joshua Tree trip instead. After all for a climber, the 1st Anniversary isn’t paper, it’s Quartzite Monzonite right?

We’re still going to the restaurant but doing that this weekend 😉

Best viewed in full screen:

Atlantis Wall & Bird on a Wire from rockgrrl on Vimeo.

Climbing at Atlantis Wall and doing Bird on a Wire 5.10a, weekend of April 10th and 11th.

Climbers: Audrey, Peter, Kelly, Eileen
Bird on a Wire Leaders: Pitch 1: Eileen, Pitch 2: Peter, Pitch 3: Kelly. Guest appearances by some unknown climbers near our route and following up 1st pitch of Bird on a Wire (but then they branched off onto another route).

Still and Motion Photographer: Eileen of

Music: Cavern of Time by Butterfly Tea

Special thanks to Rhesa for belaying and Carlos and Kevin for letting Eileen clean their route on Atlantis Wall.

Link to still photos:

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 2

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A campsite and Chimney Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, CaliforniaIn Part 1 of my Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping I shared a map I created, I’ve since updated it with a free wifi access coffee shop,  a convenient gas station and a place to rent camping equipment so be sure to check it out again.

Now I’ll get to the Packing Question. What to bring?

I’ve been camping in Joshua Tree in Fall, Winter, Spring, and yes, even the Summer. What I brought depended a lot on the weather. “But it’s the desert,” a voice from the back cries, “That means it’s hot!”

Au contraire mon ami. Joshua Tree is in the High Desert. That means it can be hot in the daytime and cold at night (like most deserts) but also that it’s generally cooler than other desert areas relatively close by (like Palm Springs for example). That also means that in the Winter it can get darn cold, even cold enough to snow (rare, since snow needs not only cold but moisture as well, but it HAS happened).

So first off here’s a site I check for the weather: Weather Underground for Joshua Tree, California. When I look at the forecast I keep a few things in mind: 1. this is for the town of Joshua Tree, not the entire National Park, elevations within the park vary and so can the temperatures, generally it will be a tiny bit cooler than the town temperatures, maybe 2 or 3 degrees cooler but sometimes more. This will of course vary if you are in the shade or not 2. I look not only at the predicted highs and lows but also for any wind. The wind can get tent-tossing-fierce in Joshua Tree. I’ve experienced it more than once and had a tent blown away and have also had climbing plans change due to crazy winds.

Once I’ve got the weather checked I usually pack for either of two situations: one, it’s going to be mainly cold or two, it’s mainly going to be hot. The cold or not bit just determines how many short vs long pants I bring & if I bring my down jacket or not.

Otherwise Joshua Tree is both cold and hot, you can, on the same day, bake while doing a climb in the sun and get chilled by belaying in the shade. Breezes also almost always kick up in the afternoon. Think layers.

I’ll be making a comprehensive list you can check off and copy and modify as your own but I’ll highlight a few items in this post first.


  1. A windproof jacket you can climb in – with my wardrobe that means I bring my favorite jacket, a stretch Windstopper jacket that even has zip vents. This type of jacket comes with me on every Jtree trip due to the hot in the sun but cold in the shade Jtree factor.
  2. A long sleeve shirt – If I’ve determined it’s a “mainly hot” trip then I’ll bring a shirt geared mainly for sun protection. If it’s a “mainly cold” trip then I’ll select one for warmth and I’ll bring more than one.
  3. A fleece hat – You’ll always use this on a trip. It might be just used at night or the in the morning but you’ll use it.
  4. Sunglasses & A hat with a brim – It’s a bright sunshiney day in Joshua Tree pretty much year round.


  1. Sunscreen – Hey, I’ve got genetics helping me but the first time in my entire life that I ever got sunburned was at Joshua Tree (sadly I’ve seen been sunburned a fair amount of times since then).
  2. Lip balm – I get chapped lips in any season in Jtree. It’s that dry air.

Food / Critters
Joshua Tree camping is basically “car camping” so you can bring whatever you’d usually pack in that situation. I’ll instead highlight a few do’s and don’ts:

  1. No need to bring a bear canister – there aren’t any bears here. The largest predators you might see are coyotes and though they might skirt close to a campsite or two, they’ve never bothered any hardcase cooler I’ve left in camp (latched closed of course).
  2. Soft sided coolers – There are small rodents and lagomorphs around so if you have a soft sided cooler you might want to stack it on the hard one to keep it out of nibbling animal reach. I’ve had a cooler nibbled right into and my oatmeal and trail mix completely eaten.
  3. Food storage – You CAN keep food in your car, however keep in mind that the inside of your car is bound to get very, very hot. Most campers try to stow coolers in the shade of a boulder instead.
  4. Trash – each campsite has trash and recycling dumpsters within walking distance of campsites so it’s pretty easy to just dump trash each night.
  5. Other critters – I’ve seen one rattlesnake in Jtree in all the years I’ve gone. It rattled & we warned off some tourists who were about to come across it (it was on a trail in Hidden Valley). Tarantulas – I’ve seen a few of them. They are not venomous, though their bite can hurt. First one I saw I just brushed to the side before laying down egg foam crate to sleep on the rock face it had been exploring. Scorpions – Haven’t seen ’em, and I don’t worry about them (though I habitually check my camp shoes before putting them on anyway).
  6. Water / Food – I already highlighted this in Part 1 but I just want to make sure you pay attention. You must bring in Water and Food into the Park. Bring lots of water. Remember it’s for drinking, cooking, and washing.

Climbing Gear

  1. Long webbing, cordelette or static rope – If you have any of these consider bringing them if you want to set up anchors for top rope. JTree rock is very sharp so you can save your climbing rope a lot of wear and tear by extending your anchor so it has less rock to rub on.
  2. A back up pair of climbing shoes – As I mentioned in Part 1, the rock  can chew up your shoes.
  3. Climbing Tape – Yes, I know there are some who decry tape usage under any circumstance but if you plan on spending a few days in JTree and want to climb for more than two of them, I suggest bringing tape and making tape gloves.
  4. Guide books – There are so many climbs in the park that it can fill three books worth and then some. Here’s a link to the Rockgrrl Book shop, California Guide Book section, I recommend you get the 1st and 3rd in the list or the 1st and 4th (and then the other two in that set when the updated versions come out). Having a guide book will help you narrow down where you want to climb, if you’re short on time you might want to seek out starred climbs rather than just any one you see. Guide books also come with handy area maps which will help you when hiking around.
  5. Nut tool – Jtree has many gear swallowing cracks. A nut tool can help you get them out [that reminds me, I wanted to make a post about how to use a nut tool effectively, someone nudge me about that sometime after the trip?].

More Climbing Tips in General

  1. Decents – The number one question I ask of a climb (even before it’s rating most times) is, “What’s the descent like?” I’ve had my share of “epic downclimbs” in this park let me tell you. Many wouldn’t have been so bad if I had known what to expect though.
  2. Beware of 5.7 and 5.9 ratings – Read my blog post entitled, “When is a 5.7 not a 5.7?” Basically think “Old School” or “sandbagged” or “They’re kidding, right!?!” and you’ll get the idea.
  3. Beware of R, X and Starred climbs – R and X are self explanatory. Starred climbs can be trusted to be memorable, though you can take that as you will.
  4. Bolted routes – Many old bolted routes are by today’s standards, very run out (even though they may not be marked that way). If you have a route that you think you might be able to place gear, go ahead and bring a few pieces in case you want to make it a mixed route.

Well this is a long post, looks like I’ll have to make a Part 3 of my guide. I’ll also make the promised detailed, checkable, modifiable packing list. Hang in there folks, soon you’ll be a happy camper / climber in Joshua Tree National Park!

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 1

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Now that the JTreeTweetup is just around the corner I’ve been getting a few questions about Joshua Tree and what camping there will be like.

I thought I’d do a series of posts on this.

While you can find a lot of information online about Joshua Tree National Park, my posts will highlight a few key things as well as be tailored specifically for climbers.

Top Most Important Things to Know About Joshua Tree in General:

  1. You must bring your own water.
  2. You must bring your own food.
  3. You must bring your own firewood/fuel.

Joshua Tree is a National Park, fuel gathering or collecting items to remove from the park is prohibited.

And though Joshua Tree is a National Park, it’s a bit of a newer one so there are no souvenir / food stores in the park itself and at the major campgrounds there aren’t even restrooms with running water. There are, however, pit toilets with toilet paper. These are much nicer than the PortaPotties that used to be there (trust me).

Now say you’re flying in to Joshua Tree (like a bunch are for the JTreeTweetup!) and you don’t want to pack a bunch of stuff. Don’t worry, just one or two towns over from West Gate (the recommended entrance into the park from most destinations) you can find restaurants, grocery and drugstores, and even camping and climbing equipment stores.

Top Things Climbers Should Know About Joshua Tree:

  1. Joshua Tree generally has Old School ratings.
  2. Joshua Tree has many more trad climbs than sport or top rope climbs (but there are thousands of climbs total so there are still a lot of all three types of climbs).
  3. Bouldering can be found all over the park.
  4. Quartzite Monzonite (the rock of JTree) is SHARP stuff. You will stick to it like crazy but it can chew up your skin and shoes.


The majority of campground space within the park itself is First Come, First Serve.

For most all-climber groups the number one preferred campground is Hidden Valley Campground. This is in large part due to its proximity to classic climbs and boulder problems (many are within walking distance, a few end or start in campsites themselves, and many others are a short drive and approach hike away). Hidden Valley is also preferred for social reasons as well, you can find pick up partners or just chat with other climbers and there’s even the Climber’s Coffee sponsored by the Rangers and Friends of Joshua Tree which is held on weekend mornings during peak climbing season.

My Map

“Now hang on!” you say, “You’re throwing too much at me! Where is all this stuff?”

Well funny you should ask. I just spent a few hours making a highly detailed Google Map with my notes about road turn offs, campgrounds, stores, and even a rough cell phone signal marker.

Here it is for your enjoyment!

View Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping in a larger map

Click the link to the bigger version to get a better overview of the area, especially since I’ve included several spots outside of the Park itself. It’s best for most of the notes if you zoom as close as possible and use satellite view (for the main park this gets you closer than Terrain view does).

I’ll be adding more information to the map as I see fit so be sure to bookmark this post!

In Part 2 of my Guide I’ll include information about the weather, what to pack and critters to watch out for.

High Sierra / Tuolumne Trip ‘09 – Part 3 Backcountry & Sport Climbs

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Day 6 – 7/15

The Parade of climbers continued on Wednesday. Peter, Jamie and I started off by getting a Wilderness permit and going to Ellery Lake to do a 5.9 there but had to leave early to meet up again with the rest of the gang and new arrivals.  We rendezvoused with Cliff and Vina and also met Brook and Monica who had arrived that day. While at the parking lot for the Tuolumne Meadows store (where Jamie and I snuck away to each buy an It’s It cookie and ice cream sandwich) Peter spotted  our friend David and his friend Tony driving by – the two guys Peter and I were going to the backcountry with to climb Cathedral Peak and Matthes Crest (a first for them).

After a slight change in plans in regards to the backcountry plan we all ended up going over to East Cottage Dome for some sport climbing. Cliff and Brook set up topropes on three 10ds there and we all settled in to climb and/or be a part of the Peanut Gallery as it were. I was happy to get to the top of the first 10d (they were all pretty tall) as myMe on one of the 10dsfingers were feeling pretty worked. It was a sustained climb for sure. Tony went up on a route called, “Edging Skills or Hospital Bills” a route John Bachar used to solo so we paid our respects to his recent passing in our own way.

Perhaps because thoughts of John were going through my head but it struck me how varied our groups had been so far for this trip, representing many life phases of a climber. We had at least one person in each of these age ranges: early twenties, late twenties, 30s, and 40s. And we had  one person turning 50 and one person in his 60s.

As a person at neither end of the spectrum it gave me something to look back on and to look forward to. Looking back I remembered the thrill of discovery, at being able to see a place for the first time again.

Jamie on another 10d

Looking at where I was at I realized that though I did get tired faster than I used to, I was still able to climb several days in a row, though I might be better off talking it easy on some of the days. I also realized that I had progressed farther than I had thought (and that I should stop being down on myself for not having the same sort of grade spurt that all the “young ‘uns” seemed to have these days).

Looking ahead in the spectrum I took heart to see that folks were still climbing, still having fun, and that though they seemed to need more rest, they were still pulling hard.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery indeed. I’d definitely like to go back.

Day 7 & 8 – 7/16, 7/17 Backpacking and Climbing

Thursday, very early in the morning, David and Tony took off for Cathedral Peak. Peter and I followed after we made sure to extend our campground stay (Peter had gotten the date wrong when getting the pass the first time – remember that was the day of the Bear Wake Up Call).

This was the third time I was setting out for the backcountry carrying backpacking gear, climbing gear and photography gear. I wasn’t looking forward to it. On previous trips this part had come early in the week, when I was fresher, now I was tired from climbing and hiking. But at least we were only going to be out one night instead of two so the food load was a tiny bit lighter (well, one freeze dried dinner, one oatmeal & one lunch for lighter anyway).

The hike up is pretty though we almost missed the turn off from the main trail to the more direct route. If you go out that way there is a turn off pretty close to the start of the trail (after the first “flight” of stone steps) and then another one much further along the trail marked by a very large cairn. I like to get off the main path and the horse manure the sooner the better though.

View from near our camping spotWe made much better time than the last time out (when we got hit by a thunderstorm that included a thunder and lightning pairing that was less than “one one-thousand”‘ away from us). In fact we did so much better that we were very close to the base of Cathedral and it was before 3pm. Peter asked if I wanted to do it but I saw the parties on the rock already and thought we should pass. It was a good call as hours later after we had set up camp and I checked out the base of the climbs to try to find David & Tony’s packs (while Peter went to get water) the climbing parties still had not moved and I found an additional party at the base still waiting their turn. I chatted with this couple and eventually left them at 4pm with an encouragement that they start as soon as they could (one of the partners had been taking a nap after they had missed the hike turn off and gone all the way to Cathedral Lake and then back around).

Unfortunately I hadn’t found David and Tony’s packs, though I did leave word with the couple at the base should they see them. Peter and I had dinner then went to sleep. Around 9pm I saw two headlamps coming directly at our tent (which was just a mosquito net teepee type tent). “David, Tony?!” I asked. No answer. The lights just kept coming directly at us. Peter woke up, “Tony, David?”. The headlamps spoke this time, “Nope. Sorry for going through your camp”. We said it was OK. I’m betting it was the couple I’d seen start at 4pm though I couldn’t figure out why they’d be going back our way since we were on the opposite side of the ridge from the climber’s Cathedral Peak trail. Perhaps they were going out that way because it was the way they had come in (though it was the much longer way around).

Matthes Crest

The next day dawned still without sight of David or Tony. We went forward with our Matthes plan anyway. We struck camp but left our packs (sans any food) hanging in a tree and hiked over to Matthes, a fair distance with many ups and downs. We had the advantage of having done it before though and made good time. At one point we saw two people ahead of us on the boulder strewn portion of the approach to the base of Matthes but they didn’t stop when we called out. Arriving at the base of Matthes around 8:30AM we found out that it was a couple from Norway and not our friends. They had bivied near Echo Peaks but had almost been eaten alive by mosquitos since they didn’t have netting. We lined up to be next but a couple of guys showed up who proceeded to make a sling belt and a swami belt of sorts for themselves. They wanted to solo the first pitch so we let them go ahead since we were waiting for more room at the first belay.

David and Tony had still not shown up and we figured at this point that they had turned back and not stayed the night, so we decided to go on without them for our second run on Matthes. Peter led the first pitch and I did the second, turning it into a harder climb than it needed to be by going a little “off route” (there’s more than one way to do the second part). The swami belt guys had roped up for the second pitch but even so we didn’t really see much of them the rest of the day. I had to cut my 2nd pitch short as I ran out of slings (which were necessary with all the drag going on) so Peter finished it off and then we were on to a lot of simul-climbing. We’d done the crest before minus the North Tower so we knew what to expect. We shortened his 70 foot rope and each carried coils with us. He “led” most of the way though it being a traverse 90% of the time we were really both leading if you will.

Peter seemed driven to go fast, he apparently really wanted to be able to hike out in time to go to the “Woah Nellie Deli” (a restaurant at a Mobil gas station outside of Tuolumne near Mono Lake). I didn’t argue with him, we’d both done Matthes before and the real reason I’d been interested in doing it again was to share it with the newcomers. There was a change of plans from last time we did it though. Last time the guide described a 5.2 ramp with a 5.6 stem to get from one side of Matthes to the North Tower. Peter had started that part and ended up very off route. I had followed it as a down lead and found myself doing a hairy move in which a foothold had broken off. This was also after another “adventurous pitch”. It was quite a nerve shaker let me tell you. Well this time I went down first. I started down one ramp and then to another then realized it was the same wrong one we’d done before so I climbed up, removed a piece then set one again for the way I had spotted. Shortly before this a few sprinkles had started to come down from the sky. I was actually surprised enough by this (being positioned that I only saw blue sky ahead of me) that I asked, “I’m getting wet, where’s this coming from?” To which Peter laughed and said, “It’s rain”. I looked up in the opposite direction and saw darker clouds. I was a little nervous then because I was at the traverse part of the climb and wasn’t sure if the rain was going to get worse quickly. After Peter followed me over he congratulated me on the route finding as at first the ramp looked like it wouldn’t be easy at the stem part but once you did it you realized the holds were solid and it was indeed the way to go.

One of the last pitches on Matthes Crest

The sprinkles stopped and the Norwegians had come down off of North Tower by then so I looked at it with an eye to climb it too but Peter said he wanted to skip it and I was fine with that, particularly since the sprinkles had started again. Perhaps next time, but really the airy traverse is what most folks think of when they think of Matthes Crest and we’d done that twice now. We rappelled down, the last rappel put me at a place where you still needed to downclimb for a bit but then it was the long slow boulder strewn descent to a meadow floor and to the scenic hiking beyond. This time when we passed a green grassy area we’d come through in the morning the mosquitos were out en force. Tired as I was I practically ran through that portion. I ended up eating 3 mosquitos total during this backcountry trek. We passed large patches of snow which also had some mosquitos near by but in general it was a nice enough off trail hike. We got back to our bigger packs, put them on and then hiked out. The last portion of the trail I ran out of steam and Peter got to the car twenty minutes before me. But… we still made it down to the restaurant.

While waiting for our food Peter asked me what my plans for Saturday were. I told him, I’m not sure, Rick was coming up (he knew Rick as one of my “Twitter friends”). I sighed and said, but I’m going to feel bad because I don’t think I’m up for a multipitch tomorrow. Peter agreed, “I don’t see how you have the energy to even talk right now”. Then he suggested I give Rick a call to judge what he wanted to do. So I did (we were out of Tuolumne so I had good cell reception though not much battery power). I basically told Rick I was pretty beat and would understand if he didn’t want to make the 3 hour drive just to climb something easy with me. Fortunately he had also done some strenuous work and was agreeable to just calling it a rain check for next time. We still chatted a while though. It was fun to hear someone’s actual voice versus just reading their “tweets” and I definitely look forward to climbing with him.

When we got back to camp we found a note from David and Tony, they hadn’t been able to find our camp and had lost their guide book for Matthes Crest so had decided to hike all the way out.

Day 9 & 10 – 7/18 , 7/19

Saturday Peter asked how I felt about going home early. I was reluctant as I wanted to at least hang out more with our friends who had come up Wednesday so instead we had our first real rest day, no uphill hiking, no climbing. Instead we Wildflowers by the Lyell Forkdid a leisurely hike up the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne river which went right by the campgrounds. Peter fished and I took pictures until my SLR battery died and then I did some much needed creek splashing. Action Wipes had worked great for me during the trip but a nice river dunk is hard to beat and let me get the dust out of my hair as well. It rained on us off and on throughout the day but it felt rather nice. Peter ended up catching a number of Golden Trout and so that helped him decide to stay and join the campfire with Cliff, Vina, Brook and Monica (they had gotten their own site). That night we had a real feast. We had the fresh fish and Brook and Monica had brought up home grown vegetables. Brook made an enchilada of sorts with the vegetables, some cheese, red sauce and tortillas and Peter made a type of Spanish rice, again using the fresh vegetables. Beer and wine topped off the evening.Fresh Feast!

Sunday Peter and I left early, stopping only to get breakfast at the Tioga Inn and talk a little bit of climbing talk with the staff there. We stopped in Bishop so I could buy some Chili Cheese bread from Schatt’s to bring home to my husband since the poor guy hadn’t made it out to Tuolumne even for a weekend. It was a poor substitute for climbing but I couldn’t bottle Tuolumne for him.


Sometimes I feel bad for going to the same places to climb over and over again, I think to myself, I should go out of state instead. But this trip reminded me that it’s not just the location that matters or even the routes you do. I’m very grateful for my climbing friends, old and new. Even though I went on the trip without a trad rack or even a rope I was able to climb and lead, and even former strangers entrusted me with their gear and their lives. Tuolumne reminds one of the nitty gritty. The backcountry and multi-pitch routes (even the ones not marked “PG” “X” or “R”) still require a certain type of commitment. And yet, as I told Nina when we viewed the rose colored panorama seen from the top of Daff Dome, “This is why we climb Trad”. And for me the whole trip — with the new friends and old friends, and even my understanding husband trusting me out on a 9 day climbing trip — was also a reminder of why I climb at all. I do it for and because of the Outdoors, the challenge, the beauty and the people.

Full set of pictures will be up in the Rockgrrl Gallery here:

How to Marry a Climber

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

What’s the foremost question on a climber’s brain? Right, “How do I land one of these hunks/babes?” I thought I’d write a guide to answer that question.

  • Step 1. Become a climber on your own
  • Step 2. Get a boyfriend/girlfriend. If they are already a climber skip to Step 4. If not proceed to Step 3.
  • Step 3. Teach them how to climb
  • Step 4. Make sure they will be there to catch you when you fall
  • Step 5. Have adventures with them
  • Step 6. Get married and spring the news on your website/blog followers.

Alright, calm down, Rockgrrl isn’t turning into some odd version of Cosmo, and if you really do have “landing” a climber as the foremost question on your climber brain you really do need to work that out. As you may have guessed, this is not a hypothetical post. For those who follow my Twitter account and may have noticed that my climbing tweets got a little sparse and then I went off to Costa Rica… well, I was busy planning a do it yourself wedding and a Costa Rican honeymoon and this is my tongue in cheek way of announcing that I got married to a fellow climber!

Short version of our “Boy Meets Girl” story: We met at a fencing tournament where he took First in the Men’s Competition and I took Second in the Women’s (I could’ve taken First… but that’s another story). Our first date was me taking him climbing and then he taking me to sushi right afterwards. Our second date was a Yosemite backpacking trip.

We got married at a small ceremony with a lot of help (for example: his mom made the cake, the reception was at a client of mine’s restaurant, the wedding party wore their own clothes – though I did buy a new dress). Our wedding day splurge was to stay at a very nice hotel for the weekend which was also used for Bride prepping and for the photo shoot (see pic).

We’re looking forward to more adventures together and take inspiration from other married climbing couples. We won’t wear our rings when climbing but one of our wedding gifts was a pair of belay devices so we’ll substitute those  😉

Choose your climber carefully, they need to be able to catch you

Choose your partner carefully, they will need to catch you!

When is a 5.7 Not a 5.7? – Joshua Tree in January Conclusion

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“You’ll have too much drag!” Dave shouted up to Luis, who was scouting around a round cap formation near the top of a trad climb on Chimney Rock.

As his belayer, I was standing in a position about 50 feet below and to the left of Luis, unable to see what was going on. I could; however, agree wholeheartedly with Dave. Luis had asked for some rope earlier and I had given him the slack, yet he wasn’t able to feel it at all.

“What about that crack over there?” Dave shouted again.

“It’s nothing, it just flares.”

Eventually it was decided that Luis would just belay me up to a spot on a ledge more in line with the rope than the false crack. We should, Dave said, be able to downclimb a chimney from there to another ledge and be able to go to the back of the formation to some rap rings on the other side.

The original plan had been that I was going to tail and reclip a rope so that others in our party could also follow the climb. That plan was smartly scrapped and I was just going to do a straight clean.

As I waited to make sure I was on belay I contemplated the 5.7 rating at Joshua Tree National Park and recalled a conversation I had had earlier during this trip.

“That one says it’s a 5.7” a climber had asked me.

“5.7 trad climbs here are unpredictable. They vary a lot.”

“Yeah, why is that?”

“I think some of them were rated with old school ratings, when 5.10 was the hardest there could be. That and maybe vet climbers doing a climb, just cruising, thinking a climb wasn’t too hard and shrugging that ‘we’ll just call it a 5.7′”.

I got a smile at that and continued, “There’s a climb in my old guide book that’s rated a 5.7. In the newest guide book it’s a 5.10!”.

“Belay is on!” Luis called. We did the rest of the command exchanges.

I started climbing.

Typical J Tree 5.7The climb I think we were doing according to my old guide book is West Face Overhang, 5.7 1 star. We (Luis, Dave and I) had studied it from the ground, comparing it to their newer guide book (I had left mine at the campsite). It looked like the first part was an easy, lower angle, walk up between two small cracks which then led to a chimney climb topped off with a boulder-like chunk which looked to us to be the crux of the climb to get over and/or around.  The finish of the climb had looked like a crack to the top of the formation set in another large boulder like shape above a ledge. That part is what Luis had called “nothing”.

I was on the lower angle part now – the part we had thought was going to be a “walk up” but at which Luis had already told me, in his accent, “That part is a little bit scary”. I could see how it would be a surprise on lead. The cracks were nice but the rock between them protruded outwards, keeping you a little off balance.

The next part was the chimney, it was a little bit too off width to do text book chimney moves, but it wasn’t too bad. I had noticed that Luis had gone straight up, following a crack rather than going around the roof part but I stepped onto the block instead.

A few more moves and I was at his belay. There was a small ledge which I could walk around the corner. Though I didn’t walk right to it due to rope drag, I could see what Luis had meant about the “crack” we had thought was the final part of the climb. It was not too much more than a scoop out of the rock towards the top, it might make a fun boulder problem if you could stem your way up, but there was no way to place gear at that part, and we were rather high in the air.

From the ledge I looked for the chimney area Dave had mentioned and saw it. It would be an interesting downclimb just get into place for it. As I got a closer look I didn’t necessarily like it. “So, we go down there?”

“Yes,” Luis said. “Or… you could lead up this,” he indicated a crack in the boulder like cap, which started at the ledge I was on and went all the way to the top. It was not tall at all, maybe 15 feet or so? Maybe 20 at the most.

We moved towards the downclimb but before I was about to cross I decided I wanted to lead the crack instead. I told Luis, “I’m like a cat, I like to go up more than I like to go down”.

Unknown CrackThis is true but I’m not sure why I felt so confident I could do this climb as an onsight. The crack looked lovely, hand and fingers, yet I really don’t have too many trad lead climbs under my belt, and even fewer done as an on sight. Climbing had helped me realize something though. I am good in a tight situation, between a rock and a hard place (forgive the pun), or even just an uncomfortable place.

I have been called a “rope gun” only a few times in my life since usually there’s always a better one in my group, but if one was needed, I’d step up. When I know something needs to be done and I can do it, I will. No complaints, no backing down. This situation on Chimney Rock was not dire as, say, my unexpected lead of part of Open Book (5.9 trad in Tahquitz) but it was just more convenient if I were to lead this and… I thought it would be more fun as well.

A few days before this trip my boyfriend told me of this crazy theory he had which basically said that I am like a hobbit. Yeah, a hobbit, from the Lord of the Rings. I didn’t find this flattering but he explained himself. Looking at a hobbit you wouldn’t expect them to be tough, but they came through and could kick butt. So he was saying I am tough and good in tough situations. I thought about The Open Book epic and other climbing situations I’ve been in and decided not to throw something at him. Still, I’d much rather be an elf, than a hobbit, for those keeping track.

I thought about that incident right before I started up the crack. It was fun, not as easy as I had thought, but fun. Luis had put a piece in at the bottom for me, he took it out after I had placed one of my own and passed it up to me to place again. I think I only put one more piece in. Just before the top I found that the crack widened. “I’m a little scared now, the crack widened,” I said to him.

“You are good,” he encouraged.

It was silly to tire myself out just hanging there, “When in doubt, run it out!” right? So I moved up and finished.

There were bolts at the top and rap rings. I happily told Luis.

When he got up I discovered I’d been climbing with my Flip MinoHD in my pocket so I took a quick video.

I gave Luis a high five.

The story of the 5.7 wasn’t over yet though. We rapped down to a ledge of sorts on the other side but not to the ground. I could see rap rings on a rock face through a chimney crack. We ended up going up and through this chimney, at first not knowing if we could reach the rings.  When we made it to the ground I gave him another high five.

This is what I remember about my early trips to Joshua Tree: a 5.7 can take all your strength and then send you on an epic downclimb (though in this case it was easy once we saw there wasn’t a chasm between the chimney and the second rap rings).

So, when is a single pitch 5.7 trad climb not a 5.7? When it’s an old school Joshua Tree 5.7 that’s when. Then it can become a route finding surprise 2 pitch climb with an unknown way to get down. The funny thing is, I know this about the 5.7s, yet I keep trying them anyway, a girl’s gotta have some unexpected fun doesn’t she?

Feel free to add your own “5.7” stories!


You can also read a trip report from theclimbergirl (no relation, though we should be huh?), she posted about a hard 5.7 as well (and was in the park just days after I left from this trip).

Links to my other articles about this particular Joshua Tree trip (January 15 – 19, 2009):

Joshua Tree in January Part 1 – Campsite Conflict

Joshua Tree in January Part 2 – Climbers

Joshua Tree in January – Trip Photos