Tales

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Thunder Strike – Part1

Thunder Ridge is a beautiful, but tiny climbing area just West of my home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is somewhat of a backwater crag these days, frequented by locals who know how good it is, but ignored by most. The rock is impeccable granite – possibly the best quality granite in the entire Rocky Mountains (if not North America?) with extremely fine, tight crystals that make for pleasant and bomber climbing, and its walls are covered with gorgeous brown patina that forms wonderful handholds. Unfortunately, this magnificent rock is concentrated in a very small location in the South Platte region of Colorado. Read more….

Don’t Call it a Comeback!

As most avid readers know, my family and I spent the last 3 years living in the Florida Panhandle, far from climbing. In May, we made it back to Colorado, and our home in the mountains. These last 3 years have been psychologically challenging, and it seemed to be a massive struggle just to maintain my climbing performance, let alone improve. I always planned/hoped that the training I accomplished in Florida would manifest itself when I was finally able to live closer to climbing.So this fall is our first full season back in the mountains, with good conditions. We trained hard and trained well, and I picked out a project that would represent a significant milestone for me; Prime Time to Shine, a 5.14b (8C) at the Primo Wall in Clear Creek Canyon, CO. Read more…

Flashback Series Ep 3: The First Free Ascent of the Lowe Route in Zion, UT

In December 2004, I (Mike) made the First Free Ascent (FFA) of the historic North Face of Angels Landing (aka Lowe Route). This amazing feature (the N Face of Angel’s Landing) was the premier climbing feature in one of America’s most beautiful National Parks, and yet it had never been free climbed. The route went free at 5.13, Grade V. Here is the story I wrote shortly after the ascent. It first appeared in a forum thread on Rockclimbing.com on Zion Climbing History in April 2005. The photos are all courtesy of Mr. Andrew Burr who worked very hard to take these amazing shots! Read more…

Flashback Series Ep. 2: The Totem Pole

125 miles off the southern coast of Australia, pummeled on all flanks by the Tasman Sea, lies an otherworldly landscape of temperate rain forest perched upon a mountain of granite and dolerite. This untamed and rarely visited corner of the world is known as Tasmania, and Tasmania is known to climbers for its fantastic sea cliffs…I spent several months in the fall of 2004 traveling and climbing around Australia, and I made a point to visit this amazing land, and try my luck on a few of its infamous towers. No tower in the world inspires as much awe among climbers as the notorious Totem Pole… Read more…

Mission (im)Possible!

Last spring I climbed Mission Overdrive in Clear Creek Canyon, a linkup that begins up Daniel Woods’ 5.14c(/d?) test-piece Mission Impossible, and then traverses right at mid-height to catch the upper half crux of the canyon’s mega-classic 5.13d Interstellar Overdrive.  At the time I was curious to investigate the complete Mission Impossible, but the remainder of my season was already booked solid.  After returning from St. George in mid-January I decided to focus my attention on Mission Impossible.  Read more…

Sunny St. George Part I: Breakin’ The Law

On rare occasions I take a short hiatus from thinking about training, writing about training, and training, to actually go rock climbing.  Over the New Year’s Holiday the family and I headed west to the warm climes of St. George, Utah for a week of climbing.  St George is home to a vast array of rock climbing possibilities, from the Grade VI Big Wall free and Aid climbs of Zion, to the bouldering of Moe’s Valley, and everything in between.  The guidebook lists more than 40 distinct crags, and the area hosts a wide variety of different rock types, including sculpted sandstone, basalt, Volcanic tuff, conglomerate, and some of the best limestone in the US.  Read more…

Sunny St. George Part II: The Present

After sending Breakin’ the Law, I faced the kind of dilemma I always dream of: what to do with my remaining two climbing days.  I thought something in the 5.14a-range would be a good goal; something I had a good chance to send in the time remaining, but not a sure thing.  I spent the night scouring the guidebook, and the next day I left early to recon various approaches, cliffs and climbs.  I feel extremely fortunate to be able to climb as much as I do with two kids in tow, but there are constraints.  Not every cliff is safe for kids, and that must be considered when selecting a project.  After scouting the VRG and Gorilla Cliffs, the choice was clear.  The Present was absolutely stunning, had a perfectly flat crag base with no loose rock, and the climbing was short and powerful (perfect for my current state of fitness).  Read more…

Roped Bouldering in Cowboy Country 

We recently spent a few days in Wyoming to take advantage of the last week of Kate’s maternity leave. Sinks and Wild Iris are among our favorite crags.  I can’t ever recall having a bad day at Wild Iris.  Even when I get bouted by a project there (which happens often enough), the warmup climbs are so fun and the setting so magnificent its hard to leave the crag without a smile.  Read more…

On A Mission 

I’m heading out to Smith Rock in a few days for a two-week trip. The climbing at Smith is extremely thin and technical — and difficult to prepare for. I believe strongly in taining and I generally feel that using indoor tools is superior to “just climbing” outside (for building strength, power, and endurance). That said, indoor training is far from ideal for developing or polishing technique. For highly technique-dependent climbing, like that at Smith, some amount of outdoor skill practice is essential. Outdoor training can also help prepare your finger skin if its done wisely (in moderation).  Read more…

Flight of the Phoenix 

In late 2009, my friend Ben Schmitt bolted a typical-looking Shelf Road face climb at Cactus Cliff.  The line climbs a beautiful white wall of limestone, featuring a brutally hard 5-or-so-move crux right in the middle of the wall.  When Ben put the hardware in, I was just finishing off the last of Shelf’s (existing) hardest routes.  I wasn’t really much into establishing routes at that time, and besides that, I didn’t really see any potential.  About a year earlier there was a thread on Mountain Project titled “No Hard Climbing at Shelf Road”, and (ironically) I actually defended that position, noting that (at that time) there were only 9 routes at Shelf harder than 5.13a.  The truth was, the visionaries who kept Shelf relevant through the 80’s and early 90’s had all moved on to greener pastures, and with the discovery of Rifle, few arrived to take their place, so development stalled for 15 years or so, until Ben arrived.  Read more…

Raise the Roof 

I realize this is not a super amazing feat, and has been bettered by countless climbers, but its a landmark for me because my board (and therefore my imagination) only has 15 rungs.  When I built the Lazy H in 2008 I scarcely dreamed I would ever need to increase the height of my board; that first season the best I managed was 1-6-11.  The only reason I went as high as 15 was because rungs are sold in packs of five.  The upper few rungs were more of a pipe dream than anything else.  Read more…

Passing the Time 

I spent the latter half of October working a route in Clear Creek Canyon called “Primetime to Shine”.  This is a linkup of two popular Peter Beal 14a’s, “Primeval” and “Shine”.  I’m usually not a big fan of linkups but this one is a rare example of a linkup that actually improves on the piece parts.  The Primo Wall is fairly short (maybe 35 feet tall?) and the geometry is such that the ‘straight up’ lines are really only continuous for a little over half the height of the wall.  The ‘Primetime’ linkup traverses left and up through the middle of a steep shield of stone, keeping the line hard for a good 30 or so hand moves.  The result is one of the most continuous hard lines on the Front Range.  Read more…

Dreams of Ten Sleep 

It was a long, hot summer on the Colorado Front Range, so after a seemingly interminable climbing drought the family was fired up to head north and check out the latest rage that is Ten Sleep Canyon.  We’ve had lousy luck when it comes to Ten Sleep.  I first bought the guidebook in the Spring of 2007, with plans to head there that coming summer.  I developed a curious Sesamoid injury (that’s in your foot) that was mis-diagnosed as a stress fracture, so I spent that entire summer in a walking boot, meaning Ten Sleep would have to wait.  I don’t exactly recall our excuses for the next four summers, but to sum up, each year we made firm plans to go to Ten Sleep, each year those plans fell through, and each year the new edition of the Ten Sleep guidebook doubled in size.  Read more…

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