Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gannet Peak

Gannet Peak

From what I heard, it starts at the Lander's Bar. You pull in, careful to avoid the row of Harley's up front, and walk in the door. The sights are somewhat unusual. Cowboys dropping whiskey shots into their beers, hippies in the corner listening to whiskey river. Man, even a bunch of animals mounted up! Yes, it's unusual, but inviting and without pretense.

And then you see her. She's a real flower child, as authentic as the cowboys, but young, not one of these old, shriveled Woodstock veterans you've met before. She's lovely, lithe and spins her gypsy skirt to Willie Nelson on the jukebox.

You really don't drink that much (climbing's far more addicting anyway), but you're here, so you might as well have a pitcher. None of the cowboys have asked you to join a cattle drive yet, which is a slight hit to your ego.

Soon enough the girl with the flowers in her hair is sitting beside you.

"You're not from here are you?"
"No I'm not" you say as she helps herself to a glass.
"Well, what're you here for?"

And this is the question, what are you here for?

You're here to get drunk, sleep in your car and drive another hour to a trailhead. to shoulder a pack and skis and ropes, and to hike 20 miles. You're here to cross swollen rivers, yawning glaciers and thick second-growth. You're here to go alone, up Gannet Peak, the highest point in Wyoming. And then you're going to walk for as long as you can without getting altogether too close to other people.

And if you're lucky, you'll have enough foolishly dangerous, but exhilarating experiences to last at least another year.

You've entertained the possibility of going in circles too. No, I think there might be a road ahead, well, obviously I should go back the way I came.

What? Another road, well I only saw the other one two days ago, how strange.

You'd like to romanticize this, say that it'll make you realize some grand and epochal truth. But honestly, that might be asking too much. You're young and wild and want to prove that you're a bad ass.

And the girl? Well, the girl is about to excuse herself and hug her boyfriend, some NOLS instructor. The flirting? Well, some hippies will do anything for free beer. You should know this, because you're probably going to ditch the bill for this pitcher anyway.

You're just another Dharma Bum after all.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Adventure Athlete Workout: Saturday July 31

Great day in the gym yesterday. I went hardon the warm-up and stretched it to 15 minutes. This is important, a workout schedule is a great thing, you need to have a plan when you go into the gym or else your time will be wasted and you will let yourself off too easily. Workout plans are best written unrealistically, sitting in air conditioning and feeling smug about your fitness. This plan will be too long, it will be too hard, but you need to finish it, usually.

Sometimes, the removal from planning and action is too great. Yesterday this was the case. The first 5 minutes of the warmup were specifically geared towards strengthening the lower back after a hard week of climbing, these stretches went well, and left me warm for the second part of the warmup, the boxer's complexof 50 hops jump rope x 50 strikes on the heavy bag. After the first five minutes were up, I didn't feel adequately warm, so I doubled the boxing complex to ten minutes.

Now I was ready for my three 5x20 lifts, but my anemia left me running on fumes by set three. The finisher to the workout was crucial, and I needed to have the energy to hit it with full intensity, so I lopped off the last two sets of 20, and transitioned into the countdown.

As a result, I left the gym with about two pounds less of sweat, and a little over an hour* of well-planed and efficient training under my belt, along with the sense of accomplishing a hard lift to the best of my ability.

*Yes, an hour, what? You think you need two hours to get some work in? Preposterous, long days are for the mountains, long approach marches and slogs up granite. When I'm in the gym, I work quick and with maximum cardiovascular output. I rarely let my muscles rest, because when I need them on the rock, I need them to work in sustained bursts to establish rhythm. A two hour session requires ample rest time between sets. The only rest that I get on the rock is on a belay ledge, and it comes sparingly, and so I seek to emulate that while in the gym.


“An Easy Ab Day”
30-seconds at each station:
GHD Sit-up or Floor Wiper
Tuck Sit (on parallettes)
Forward Leaning Rest on Rings (feet same height as hands)
Sit-up (feet anchored)
Side Plank (right)
Atomic Sit –up
Side Plank (left)

30-seconds between stations during which 5 perfect reps of the following must be done:

Round 1: Pull-ups
Round 2: Triangle push-ups
Round 3: Chin-ups

Three rounds, total duration of workout is 24 minutes

From Gym Jones

Friday, July 30, 2010

Adventure Athlete Workout: Friday July 30 (updated)

Flashback: Tire-flips, March 2010 (I'll get back to these once I've rehabbed my lower back).

Wow, I don't think I've been out of the gym for this long in a while, apparently I haven't posted one of these since this past Monday. I haven't done anything else since then.

Well, not really. On Tuesday I ran hills with a pack until my legs started to give out. On Wednesday I put in a gym bouldering session (with a little bit of slackline work for the core). And yesterday I spent the afternoon at one of the local sport crags. Yesterday was especially killer, the crag is top-rope only (although there are plenty of places to place removable pro, definitely going to keep that in mind for future trad training with a mock lead set to the top-rope)with a some great crack systems (generally comfortable hand-jams, but with some finger cracks and off-width for character building)and a number of tricky chimneys and roofs.

I climbed on route that may have been flirting with 5.10a rating, and then a solid 5.9 with a nasty slab of a crux for the first twenty feet. And then did some practice rappels with my new figure-8 device.

I felt good about the climbing itself. Aside from one tricky crack system I was able to avoid hang-dogging almost entirely (a real temptation on top-roped routes)and I surprised myself in a few of the off-widths.

The crag itself however, left quite a bit to be desired. There are trees everywhere. There are trees at the bottom of the crag that rise over the top-out and drip pine-resin in your hair, there are nasty little survivors clinging to dirt on minuscule ledges that entangle your rope and block the belayer's view of the climber almost entirely. The trees are merely an inconvenience though, when compared to the smattering of roofs towards the top of the climbs that turn each fall into a potentially nasty pendulum (not to mention the rope-drag).

My lower back is pretty much shot after all of this climbing. So I'm about to go for a few days without and actual climbing, and focus on training cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.

Unacceptable, the body must be developed in balance, the legs must be prioritized, treat them mercilessly, volunteer to carry the rope and gear, sprint up steps, power-lift till you puke. Do whatever it takes to turn your legs into tree-trunks, the rest of your body will thank you.


  • 5 minutes dynamic stretching (emphasis on lower-back)
  • 5 minutes boxer's warm-up (50 hops jump-rope, 50 strikes heavy bag: maximum reps for time)

  • Barbell Military Press 5x20*
  • Flat Bench-Press 5x20*
  • Bent-Over Lat Raise (on Bosu Ball) 5x20*
*Cut to sets of 3x20, anemia is forcing me to ration energy, and I needed to hit the finisher hard, so I cut back. Cheating? Maybe, but there's a line between dedication and stupidity. Right now I'm content to flirt along the borderlands.

Superset for time, work on speed, minimize rest periods.


Superset reps with countdown from twelve, no rest:
  • Push-press
  • Off-balance push-up

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lennon, McCartney and Robbins, Chouinard

Royal Robbins is handing the sling of climbing gear to Yvon Chouinuard. The weather is marvelous. The air is not to cold, the wind has no bite, and the sun is a friend warming their backs. It’s the kind of glorious day that makes California famous and Yvon Chouinard revels in its comfort. He flies up the wall, more a bird than a man, as the North American Wall of El Capitan falls away to the Yosemite Valley floor 1,500 feet below.

Yvon Chouinard

My love of history has snuck its way into the fire that climbing has lit in my soul. I’ve geeked out over the great books on climbing history and culture: Mark Jenkin’s The Hard Way, John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Clint Willis’ The Boys of Everest to name a few. From my reading, I have found two heroes from the enormous and colorful cast of climbing history.

Royal Robbins and Yvon Chouinard were contemporaries during the pioneering days of climbing in Yosemite Valley. Both were exceptionally principled men with innate respect for the world they explored. I deeply respect each man for the integral role they played in bringing “clean climbing” ethics to the mainstream American scene.

In reading about Robbins and Chouinard I have begun to seek out a superior. Which was the better of the two? Who was better on rock? Who pushed the boundaries of the sport further? I find myself making such comparisons regularly, most often between favorite musicians.

Royal Robbins

The most reliably and enjoyably of these self-debates is without question the choice of a favorite Beatle. I’m usually a John Lennon fan myself; I enjoy his avant-garde surrealism and creativity. However, Paul McCartney has been gaining ground on Lennon of late, thanks mostly to a new appreciation for rocky Raccoon and the Abbey Road medley.

The Beatles discussion is so enjoyable in fact, that I’ve even roped a friend into it. Kaitlin Defoor and I used to go to school together. She’s been somewhat of my hippie mentor, and she seems to have the rare ability to mercilessly quash my more moronic flights of fancy.

Kaitlin is a George Harrison fan. And in that she is a collegiate debater, she has done an admirable job in winning me over. However, in the course of my ponderings on Royal Robbins versus Yvon Chouinard, I realized that there is a certain level of excellence at which preference becomes almost irrelevant.

I strongly believe that arguments can almost always be made for the superiority of one thing over another. You could very easily say , show that The Doors were a far better band than Nickelback, or that Dean potter is a better rock climber than yours truly. But I think that when athletes or artists or individual works of art reach a certain level of quality, they exist as incomparable equals.

John and Paul

Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins were demigods of Yosemite. Sure, they each at advantages in some areas and disadvantages in others. The same goes for John, Paul, George and Ringo, or The Who vs. The Doors, and even for Citizen Kane vs. The Godfather.

So was George Harrison the best Beatle? Maybe, but I’m too busy enjoying Sgt. Peppers to care. And besides, there are issues in the world far more important than Paul vs. John that I should be concentrating on, like putting up some epic routes like Robbins and Chouinard… their way of course, the right way.

Adventure Athlete Workout: Monday July 26

(Back squat)Kee


2x20 Squat
2x 15m Lunge
2x5 Burpee
2x10 Jump Squat
3x10 KB Swing (one set each @ 35#, 44#, 53#)
Hi-Pull + Power Clean + Jerk @ 50% +/-
One triplet every 30 seconds for five minutes

7x Clean @ 70% +
90 sec Step-up +
2 min Rest
5x Clean @ 75% +
90 sec Step-up +
2 min Rest
3x Clean @ 80% +
90 sec Step-up +
2 min Rest

5 minute Intermission (including 3rd-2min Rest period above)
10x Back Squat @ 50% +
90 sec Burpee/Broad Jump or Rope Pull @ 35# +
2 min Rest
8x Back Squat @ 60% +
90 sec Burpee/Broad Jump or Rope Pull @ 35# +
2 min Rest
6x Back Squat @ 70% +
90 sec Burpee/Broad Jump or Rope Pull @ 35# +
2 min Rest
4x Back Squat @ 75-80% +
90 sec Burpee/Broad Jump or Rope Pull @ 35# +


Cool down

From Gym Jones

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Hard Way

"Ego Trip: Mountaineering
in Bolivia"
by Mark Jenkins.
Outside Feb 02

"At the 11th hour, the day before departure, my partner bailed. Something hadn't been right from the beginning—the tone of his voice on the phone, the odd nonchalance toward planning our gear and food. I felt it in my gut but ignored the signals. We almost always know what's really going on, we just don't want to admit it....

The plane ticket was in my pocket, pack packed, time carved off the calendar. I could have canceled, but I was itching for another expedition. Besides, I'd told my friends I was off to Bolivia to climb. I boarded the plane early the next morning and ordered two beers to toast my resolve....

In the afternoons I traipsed from one pension to another hunting for a new climbing partner. I was certain I'd find one. Expeditions are always falling apart---illness, injury, or attitude will knock out two or three people and pretty soon the whole trip is in shambles. I figured I'd have my pick of alpinists. But it wasn't so. The few Americans I found were either aimless, dreadlocked pilgrims or eager but inexperienced clients of guided climbs....

Down a cobblestone alley in a shabby hotel I found a three-woman, two-man Slovenian team going to 18,531-foot Condoriri to attempt a new route. They were confident and relaxed. They pulled me into their cramped room to drink wine with them while they loaded piles of Russian ice screws into their worn packs. Their leader was a tall, svelte woman named Ada. She wore a tank top and purple tights. You could see the muscles in her thighs as she moved around. She had flaming auburn hair, prominent cheekbones, and eyes so ravishing I was too self-conscious to look straight at her.

“So, where is partner?” Ada asked me.

“I came to Bolivia alone.”

“Ahhh, I see.” She pushed her hair back and lowered her Cleopatra eyes on me. “You come to solo. Very good.”

The other four members of her team nodded at me in respect and admiration. One climber, a towering guy with stringy hair and a nose that had obviously been broken, gave me the thumbs up.

“Stefan also solos,” said Ada, smirking at her teammate.

I'd never intended to solo anything on this trip. I intended to find a partner, preferably one stronger and more experienced than myself. Although I had soloed mountains in the past, soloing was something that took a stronger head than I had. Soloing required gravitas. No backup, no net, no nada---one mistake and you die. I didn't have the screwed-up childhood or soul-wrenching angst or any other usefully twisted motivation for soloing. I also didn't have the cojones. But now I had this instant reputation.

“And what are you going to climb?” Ada continued.

My erstwhile partner and I had talked about a dozen different mountains but hadn't settled on anything. On my morning runs I'd studied the two peaks just outside La Paz, 21,201-foot Illimani and 20,340-foot Huanya Potosi. The trade routes on both were known to be interesting and not too technical.

“Huayna Potosi,” I declared.

Ada arched her razor eyebrows and a shadow of disappointment crossed her face.

“The east face,” I heard myself say, and they all broke into toothy grins and shook their heads in approval and my tin cup was refilled with red wine.

“To your climb,” said Ada, winking and batting her eyelashes.

I sometimes think back and wonder if she actually knew, somehow, that I'd made it all up on the spot. Nah, of course not. She was just winking at me because she knew she was beautiful and because
beautiful women always like bold mountaineers, particularly beautiful women who are bold mountaineers.

That night I went to a good restaurant, La Carreta, ordered myself a big Argentinean steak, and drank one cold beer after another until I was convinced that climbing the east face of Huayna Potosi was indeed exactly what I'd come to do. Although, having no guidebook and no topo, I had no idea if such a route even existed."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Edge of Seventeen

I recently came up with the idea for a dual, cool-person reading club. Since the club was my idea, I gave the first suggestion. It was The Ghost Road by Hemmingway of our age, Mark Jenkins. She liked it, which made me happy, and her thoughts are available to read here.

For my first assignment, I was told to peruse a website of Stevie Nicks quotes, and just kind of respond. I admit that what follows is somewhat melodramatic, but I’m talking about rock stars, so it’s hard not to do.

I think that there is a connection that comes from creating something with another person. It’s the chemistry between mothers and fathers, and slightly differently between band mates. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had love for each other, and they shared the bond of co-creation. That must have been truly extraordinary.

Then the way it all ended… Lindsey Buckingham seems to be incapable of sustaining his relationship with Stevie beyond the passion they had during the music and fame and creativity. Stevie says that at one point the relationship devolved to the point that she would “walk into a room and he'd become the most sarcastic, unpleasant man on the face of the earth.”

I have a picture in my mind. It’s of Lindsey Buckingham sitting in a basement. He’s holding court over a group of hippies. There’s smoke in the air, and three joints are being passed around the group. Beer, whiskey, maybe there are some girls are in the corner doing lines. It’s Lindsey at home, relaxed, everyone in the room is less rich, less famous, less smart and less creative than him. He’s grinning, and offhandedly strumming an acoustic guitar.

Then Stevie walks in. The girls wipe their noses, a few of the guys start rolling more joints, they act distracted, everyone is looking away. Lindsey puts down the guitar. Tension fills the air. Then Lindsey says something terrible.

He doesn’t mean it. Not really. He is lashing out nonsensically. He’s suspicious and paranoid and conflicted. I think he wants control, control of his environment and the people within it. He loves Stevie, but she isn’t his, not really. She is her own person. In her love she has given herself to Lindsey, but not completely, she doesn’t let herself.

She does this not because she is some violent feminist, but because she is scared. She does not know what she is scared of, but she thinks she knows how to fight her fear. She fights it with personal strength, independence, creativity and, when these fail, the drugs.

They are both wealthy and famous, and they love each other, they really do. But each is governed by some indelible flaw that serves like wall between them. And every night Lindsey worries about Stevie’s faithfulness, or tears into her esteem with mean words and passive aggressiveness, the bricks build and build on this wall, until one day the two wake up and realize that the wall is so tall that it blocks out the other completely.

And then the love dies. But it's a love that will leave countless people will share in for years to come.