photo by Bradford MacArthur

Monday, 21 September 2015

A photo journal of The Incredible Hulk- The Venturi Effect and Solar Flare

My shadow and I climbing up the Crux pitch of Solar Flare 12d
In late August Marc and I decided to hike in to the beautiful Hoover Wilderness above Bridgeport, CA to climb on the Incredible hulk.  Having grown up in the Sierra I felt drawn to climb in these mountains, and for the past few years the idea has been filtering through my mind waiting for the right moment.
We chose to start on the ultra- classic  'The Venturi Effect' a Peter Croft, Nettle and Davis line (The Venturi Effect), and return on a later date for Solar Flare.
The Hulk in the afternoon sun- view from basecamp

The elevation took me by surprise having come straight from Squamish at sea level.  The peak resides at 11,040'.  ( Video of us on Venturi )

After hiking in, the exhaustion overtook me and I spent the rest of the afternoon stretching, drinking gallons of water and admiring the different lines on the Hulk.  Marc on the other hand had plenty of energy to boulder on some of the infinite rocks that lay about the base.

Hanging out at basecamp

With an early start I took the first pitch, a burly 11c with frozen hands.  We swapped leads till the end, each getting to lead two 12 pitches.  Pitch 4 was my lead, the 12d stem 'The Book of Secrets'.  I was nearing the top and found myself with both hands and feet pressing outward in a full bridge between the walls.  With one impatient move I eagerly pushed down on my palms and popped off the wall.  
Overcome with sadness I pulled back up and sent the rest of the pitch.   This was the only fall of the entire day.  Marc managed a full onsight, and I was one move away.  The day spiraled upwards from that moment on.  The sun came around the corner and we cruised up the headwall, enjoying the amazing cat-scratch splitters that line the face.
Me leading up The Book Of Secrets

Marc starting the stemming corner
Topping out the 12a, first pitch of the headwall

Marc coming up the 12b headwall cracks

Marc lead the second Crux pitch with a steady pace, teching his way up the insecure and physical moves.     
We made it to the top around 4pm, both extremely content with our efforts.  We then rapped the route, packed up our tent and hiked out of the valley, looking forward to return.  
Smiles from the top!

Solar Flare 12+,  Peter Croft and Conrad Anker 2007

This is a line which I did not expect to do so well on.  It follows a striking prow that is known for having bouldery moves while bouncing back and forth over two sides of an arête. The day started out with a frigid wind howling through the valley.  We both regretted having started early this day.  We inched our way up the first 4 pitches, with numb fingers and toes huddling together on a small ledges for 2 hours waiting for the sun to arrive.
Pitch 1, Frozen hands

12b stemming
I lead pitch 5, a bouldery 12c.  Crimping my left hand on a micro edge and smearing my right foot out across the face I reached as far as I could; leaning towards the arête.  My reach was a few inches shy and my only option was to fall towards the arête and hope for luck.  I fell rightward and my hand happened to catch on a small incut, hidden on the other side of the arête.  I looked back at Marc, eyes full of surprise thinking that this was some sort of magic.  I finished the pitch without a fall and finally made it to a sunny belay ledge.
Warming my hands before making the crux move on the 12c

Marc coming up the 12c

Marc took the final crux.  The 12d that leads up the golden prow.  Right from the start the movements are technical and it never eases until you reach the belay.  Huge gusts of wind almost knocked him off as he balanced from one side of the arête to the other, but he made it to the top without a fall.
Marc on the 12d arête

It was then my turn and with a calm excitement I too sent the pitch.  I then lead us up the final 12a/b where the route connects with Sunspot Dihedral.  
Marc on the final pitch, 12a/b

Despite the cold and windy conditions that were playing against us, we both managed an onsight of the route!  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Malta Motion


Poking out of the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean is a small limestone land called Malta, along with its even smaller co-island, Gozo.

On May 10th Marc and I boarded the ferry from Pozallo Sicily heading to Valetta, Malta, ready to get our sport climbing on. As Valetta came into view it appeared like no other place I had ever seen; A land completly absorbed in  sandy city walls, narrow steets winding in every which way, and big industrial like tankers and machinery in the harbor.

My first impression was that Malta was chaos. 

Our rental car agency dropped a car off for us at the ferry terminal and left us to fend for ourselves. I was surprised to find the steering wheel on the right side of the car and the manual shifter was left handed.  More surprised still to learn that the Maltese drive on the left side of the road. 

Just like that we set off on a quest through the interconnected maze of cities to find the one and only climbing store. It's quite complicated navigating through these cities as is, but given that Malta is lacking 80% of their street signs makes things much worse.

With a bit of luck two hours later we were on our way to the first crag, The Mellieha Cave. The cave is located in a sink hold on a plateau just above the ocean.  Overhanging walls of pockets and stalactites worked me over pretty quick.  (not to mention we had been two days on from climbing in Sicily already)
Marc climbing Crazy Monkey
  We set up our tent outside of the cave where the dirt road meets the seaside cliff, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean.
Our tent at the Mellieha Cave

I awoke during the night to the sound of thunder off in the distance, and a quick flash of light.  Less than 20 minutes later, a full blown light show was directly overhead striking through the sky. I darted off the the car for shelter to comfortably watch while Marc decided to stay in the tent… I imagined what kind of horrific rescue situation would play out if I had to save Marc from a lighting strike.

Fortunately the storm passed without a single disturbance and I returned to the tent. 

The calm morning was preceded by a light windstorm, which I was asleep for.  I woke up to Marc squishing a tick from my shoulder.  Looking around the tent, we found about 12 more tikcs creeping around by our feet.  We quickly killed them all and searched our bodies for more.  With absolutely no idea how they entered the tent, our only conclusion is that they were blown in by the slight wind and happened to enter the tent while part of the Zipper was undone.  Just our luck.  

Blue Grotto -Wied iz zurrieq and Ghar lapsi

We cruised down to the other side of the island to check out the sea cliff climbing.  
Marc rappelling down to Red Wall

We rappelled down to a small isolated bench lined with climbs.  I dove into the ocean for a cool wake up.  The swimming is amazing except that small boats are continuously passing by.  Strangley enough the Blue Grotto town is famous for its 'tour boat' attraction.  Hundreds of tourists pile in by bus to be taken out to view the sea caves.  They were pointing in awe at us all day as we climbed, got to see me take some fun whippers :)


Greek Odyssey multi pitch, Red Wall

Within a few days we were ready for a change and headed over to Gozo.


The small island of Gozo can be crossed in no longer than 20 minutes, that is, if you don't get lost, and is a paradise for sport climbers and divers.  Caves and tunnels connect the underwater world, filled with colorful fish and flora. This small limestone island is also home to the world class climber Stevie Haston. 

Marc and I rented a small apartment in Xlendi Bay, a charming ocean town and set off to climb at some of the sea cliffs. Day one we climbed a beautiful multiptich on the sea cliffs called White Wings.  

Day two we ventured down to the Underworld, a Stevie Haston creation.  The swells from the Mediterrranean ocean seem to be directed precisely to this cave creating an atmosphere of booming intensity.  Right away we knew we were in for some excitement. The dark morphed rock was wet but  amazingly full of giant pockets and jugs.  We spent the afternoon climbing various routes such as Vampire Lats, Furry Animals, and I love Elvis.
Me climbing out of the Underworld via the 7b+ Furry Animals 

Marc exploring the Underworld


Gozo- The White Tower

Our exploration of Gozo continued as we headed over to The White Tower to climb with Stevie, Alix and Inigo.  Unfortunately I don't have any photos.  We both loved the climbing here. The walls are steep and sustained, but each route varies in style.  There is techy face climbing to intricate stemming to juggy endurance climbs, all overlooking another spectacular bay. 

Our Gozo/ Malta days were summed up with another few days of climbing, swimming and exploring the Mediterranean Cuisine before we jumped back on a plane to Italy. (well, before spending the night in the airport, and getting hassled by the airport security, losing a rope along amongst other complications. )

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mate Porro y Todo lo Demás  North pilar (Pilar Goretta) Fitzroy

Carolyn Davidson and I had just returned from a successful mission on Aguja Rafael Juarez having climbed the stellar line called Coralo in the Torre Valley. Just as we got back El Chaltén the weather was breaking immediately into another climbing window. With one day to prepare we packed our bags and began the trek back into the mountains, this time up to base camp Piedra Negra, on the north side of the Fitz group.  Our plan was to climb a route of Rolando Garibotti and Bean Bowers called Mate Porro y Todo lo Demás, 900m 6c.
The North Pillar of Fitz Roy
The weather was a bit stormy as we approached Piedra Fraile, a small refugio located in the Valley below Piedra Negra.  Merely out of curiosity I asked Carolyn if she had ever experienced the Patagonian winds because I certainly hadn't.  Without knowing, I had just predicted the forecast for our next few days.  
The winds struck us as we were hiking up the steep hill to the base camp.  I could only hope that the night would settle the storm and the weather window would prevail as the meteorgram had predicted.  Once at Piedra Negra we located some stashed climbing gear which our friend had left for us under some rocks, set up a tent and fell asleep.
Fitz Roy as seen from the hill where we got our first taste of the Patagonian winds
We awoke at 1:30 am and the air was still. We prepared a quick breakfast  and began the long approach to the base of the route by headlamp, leaving at 2 am. 
We reached the base of the route by 8:30 after having weaved our way across complex terrain throughout the night. The morning was chilly and the sky was filtered with a thin cloud layer. A tent was set up at a rock formation near the base of the pilar but we could not spot any climbers. 
I began the first leading block of what I estimate to be about 10 pitches, but I can't be certain because I was linking pitches as well as using a mix of short fixing, free climbing, and french freeing whenever possible. Carolyn was following on ascenders and carrying the pack; we were basically speed climbing. Soon enough the dihedral ended and Carolyn took over the lead.  Until this moment I was so invested in the climbing that I hadn't noticed the clouds pouring over the peaks of the Torres from the south. Now that I was belaying my heart rate slowed and I became cold. As I changed from my rock shoes back into my approach shoes I felt the freezing wind bite my feet.The next anchor was located on an arête that was perfectly exposed to the wind. Carolyn aided the thin and technical crack with frozen hands as I stood shivering and exposed on the ledge. The clouds quickly engulfed the entire mountain and snow flurries whipped past in strong gusts.  I yelled up at her but she could not hear, "Carolyn we need to bail! The weather is worsening!" I waited for a response but all sound was overtaken by the wind. My only option was to meet her at the next belay so I struggled my way up the overhang on jumars. Once I arrived at the ledge Carolyn's calm rational reassured me that all would be well if we could make it to the bivy ledge.  I scrambled up the gully with a settled mind, focused on finding a protected bivy spot which I could barricade with rocks.  The storm clouds were dark and the wind was persistent but our -20 sleeping bag and warm boiled water from our jet boil made for a rather comfortable sleep. On the bright side, the storm clouds painted an amazing sunset, and there was no better place to view it than the north pillar of Fitz Roy.
Beautiful but dramatic sunset
The next morning maintained the chill and windspeed from the day before and we were faced with a tough decision.  If we pushed on we risked facing the unknown weather so we decided it would be best to bail. By 4 pm we were back at the base of the pilar and the day had transformed into a beautiful and calm day. We were devastated.  Not only was it frustrating that we had wasted our time rappelling during the best weather conditions but we watched as another party (a group of Spaniards) casually climbed up the route. They had waited out the wind started up sometime around midday. 

Carolyn Taking over the lead at the break of day
After contemplating various options we decided that we would have a good chance at summiting the North Pillar in a single day via Mate Porro if we started early. The first half of the route was fresh in our memories as well as the lower rappels.  We were up and moving by 3 am. Having already climbed the first half of the route I was able to climb even faster. I lead my block by headlamp, with the help of the full moon.
The full moon setting after a bright night of climbing
Carolyn took over as it began to get light out and we were back at the bivy ledge by 11 am. Once again the weather was less than ideal. The winds were strong, so strong in fact that we found the Spaniards huddled in their bivy sacs waiting for the winds to die. 

I traversed the ledge around to the north side of the pillar in search of a line that would be protected from the southern winds. I chose a line called Gringos Perdidos, 6c, which follows crack systems of varying sizes up to a small roof.  It was impossible to see what lied beyond the roof so I chose to climb a flared groove that veered left into an offwith dihedral. Only later did I find out that I had linked Gringos Perdidos with another variation, and in doing so found an entirely new crux section.  I was stoked; at the top of the North Pillar being challenged with technical free climbing with the sun at my back. 

We reached the snowy summit around 5 pm, so proud and happy of our revenge ascent. There was no time to relax however, for we still had the entire decent, and descents are often more challenging than the climb.  Just to our luck our rope became caught as we pulled our very first rappel, winding itself around a chock stone high above in an icy chimney. It was critical that we save it as we still had some 20 plus pitches to descend.  Carefully I pulled myself upward on the lodged rope while squeezing up the chimney about 30 feet to where it was stuck. I was surprised by how easily the rope dislodged but realized that it would be an ideal location to build a knot anchor. With some rap cord I tied a small not and wedged it between the chock stone and the wall. Then rappelled back down to Carolyn. Our rope gave us trouble on every single rappel, fortunately we didn't have to climb up again to retrieve it. We quickly caught up to the Spaniards, they must have waited on the bivy ledge at pitch 16 all day. We made it to the base before dark, slipped into our bivy sac and fell asleep awaiting a long and tenuous hike out on empty stomachs the next day

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter Alpine in the Tantalus

I e-mailed my mom to tell her about our spontaneous trip into the Tantalus Range last weekend. She responded with: 
“A spontaneous heli drop?!” 
She had clearly seen this photo that Marc had posted on Facebook:

  But it was spontaneous.  Our plan was to climb in the Joffre Range but a power line had fallen across the road and blocked off the access so at the last minute we had a change in plans.  An hour later we were unloading our bags from the helicopter onto the glacier under Mt. Dione.
Where the heli dropped us off (thats Dione in the background)

We made a quick stop at the hut to drop off the extra gear and went out for an afternoon ridge scramble between Serratus and Dione. Then found a quick 2 pitch mixed route to get a feel for the conditions.  

The first pitch was a chimney iced over with rime on the right and flakes of rock on the left. I torqued my left front-point into a microscopic crack and stemmed with my right. The pitch led us to a nice ice gully to the top of the ridge.  

This gave us a great feel for the conditions, and conditions were excellent.  The season had been bringing a west wind that had scoured the entire west face in rhyme. Our timing was perfect because just as we arrived the temperatures dropped and the Arctic Outflow kicked in; meaning a change in wind direction, now from the north. The north face was experiencing freezing winds up to 70km, while the west side was protected, sunny, and covered in ice.  

Day two brought extreme winds to the col where the hut was located.  We put on our arctic war proof jackets aka: Arc’teryx Dually, and faced the storm. 

The second pitch on of our first day climb.
The wind is blowing through the col behind me

The next morning ee woke at 4:30 to boil water for the day, then headed out across the glacier to attempt route on the west face of Tantalus.  The approach took about 2.5 hours to the base of of west face, including a steep down climb of step kicking.  

We chose a line called the Kay- Mannix.  We kicked steps in the steep couloir for quite a while 

Mount Dione (right peak) and Mount Tantalus( left peak), view from the South west.  We were headed fro the west face, the longest face.
Me climbing the coulior

until the ice tuned totally vertical, into a small waterfall.  This was the limit of my ice soloing ability so Marc made a quick belay and I tied the rope around my waist.  Just as I had finished the knot a spin drift avalanche came shooting over me.  
“Keep your head down and hold on!”  I could hear Marc shouting from above.  He was off to the side and protected.
Literally this was the only thing I could do. The steepness of the section I was climbing was just enough to protect me from the debris and it projectiled over me.  I was completely enveloped in the snow but I was able to pull out my ice tool and scale over to the right and out of the fall line. 

From there we decided to avoid the gullies and head up a steeper mixed section. Marc took the first lead but at the end of the rope was struggling to find a belay.  I was admiring the pleasant rock to the left imagining that it would be a superb rock climb. I then realized, this can’t be a good sign when the rock to my left is happily baking in the sun, and im climbing a route of frozen water.  Either way, I  climbed the pitch which was super techy and fun and I then lead an unprotected pitch of steep snow and ice. We then climbed to a sunny and melting ridge and decided to call it.  

The sun was heating up the upper mountain and sending ice avalanches down all the couliors and the route would certainly take us the entire rest of the day to finish, possibly into the night. And descending winter routes is not always as straight forward as rock routes.

We descended the arête and made it down in 5 raps no problem.  

That was the extent of my tantalus winter weekend.   
The amazingly beautiful sunset from the hut
Unfortunately I didn't have a camera so I didn't get any shots of Marc on this trip, but ill get one for next time.  

Monday, 29 September 2014

East ridge of Alpha, Tantalus Range

Marc- Andre at the lovelywater dock at noon just before we split to opposite sides of the lake.
Yesterday I solo scrambled the East ridge of Alpha for the first time.  It apparently goes at 5.8, but the crux section is super short, only about 20 feet or so... and the rest is a nice 4-5th class scramble.  From this photo you can see the summits of Niobe and Omega about 1000 feet below (where Marco was climbing).  Car to car, including the cable crossing it took us about 9 or so hours.  I passed a team about half way up the ridge who decided to bail due to lack of time, and were surprised to see me arrive so late in the day to do a casual scramble.  I explained that going solo is much faster in situations such as this.
Heres a nice photo of the integral ridge of Alpha.  For whom it may concern, there is a complete marked trail through the dense forested approach up to the ridge, but the carins are hard to spot, and the decent is flagged with yellow and pink tape, but keep an eye out. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Shadow

The shadow, what to say about the shadow... well, its one of those routes where I found myself in a unique place I have titled the ‘self-encouragement stage’.  That special point where you have to verbally encourage yourself to keep pushing on. The thing about stemming, I have found, is that the longer I spend in one position the more likely I am to slip. Thats how this route goes, its unrelenting.  Fortunately my mental games worked and I was able to send the pitch on the third go ground up on lead. I made two attempts on sunday with very close calls and some fun runout whips into the corner (they were all clean falls)  We returned on the next day for the send.  
Photo by Anders  Ourom. The Shadow 12.d or 13a? The sheer dihedral which hangs high on the Squamish Chief, the direct line of Univeristy Wall- both esthetically and stylistically eye-catching.  

I also want to mention that I wasn’t on sighting, I had climbed the route on second last fall but wasn't ready to lead it. 
The corner has small pockets for gear but they are quite spaced which requires some exciting run outs.  About half way up the pitch the crack widens to #1 for about a meter which is the only rest on the route. However the transition move out from the jam and into the stem is what I found to be the crux. The walls are slightly undercut at this point making both my hands and feet insecure. The rest of the route is protected by stoppers which are run out, but super solid if they are placed right.

Saturday, 6 September 2014


Yesterday I was able to send my project up at Gonzalez Creek in Squamish at the Fferys Wheel crag.  I was lucky enough to have Marc Andre jug up my fixed lines to get some cool shots while our buddy Luke gave me a belay.  The route is quite complex with a lovely crack climb leading into various roofs, stemming, sport and dihedral techniques.  The actual grade, i'm not completely sure of, but a consensus has led me to call it 5.12c.  The gear needed for the stemming is super key,  A blue alien cam, some rp's and a single set up to #1.  I'll add a topo shortly and can give gear beta for anyone who is interested.  
Some laybacking on thin cracks leading into the stem corner. 

The stemming corner

The top of is a cool chimney feature into a #1 crack to the anchor