Spain – 1/2

Wow, it has been quite a while since I have updated this thing. I have been meaning to be more adamant about trying to update but somehow time just keeps passing. Haha alas, I am going to start where I left off and begin with a trip recap from Spain.

I had heard about bouldering near the town of alcañiz for about 3 or so years now. Little hints here and there about a bouldering area very much undeveloped only 3 hours from Barcelona. With areas like albarracin and the incredible lime stone rope climbing in the area, i thought there was no way that an amazing bouldering area could have been missed. Every time I would hear about the zone, I would dismiss it as it seemed impossible for something so special to be so close to other world class destinations.

While in Iceland on a shoot for prAna, Chris told me about this area he had seen while driving down the highway in Spain. He told me of these back sandstone boulders that looked to be incredible quality and I had to come check it out. We looked on the map and sure enough it was right outside of the small village of alcañiz. I decided then that I had to at least go see for myself what this area had to offer.

Fortunately enough I had the opportunity to be in Spain for 4 days in December. At first I was apprehensive yet again. I drove to albarracin since I had not been there in a while. I’m not really sure why I went there, but for whatever reason, I did. I had a few fun days and was meant to go to Barcelona in a day or two. I thought about alcañiz and still didn’t know if I wanted to go. Thankfully i decided I had made my way all the way to Europe, I need to go see what this place has to offer.

I woke up early the next day and drove a few hours to the small town. I did not really know where to go once I got there. I drove down dirt road after dirt road and started to see black boulders everywhere. I hopped out of the car and began running up the hills to see how the quality was. It was identical to joes valley sandstone (for those who have not been to Joe’s, it is some of the best sandstone America has to offer!) I had left the door open in excitement but couldn’t be bothered with that and continued to run up and down the hills scoping boulder after boulder marveling at the color, quality, and line potential on each bloc.

I spent well over 3/4 of my day exploring. As the sun was about to set I ventures up this hillside to the very top. At the top was this small roof with a tall slightly overhanging head wall. I decided I had to do at least one Boulder that day so I grabbed my stuff and headed back up the hill to climb it. The line ended up being slightly harder than I had imagined. As the day was truly coming to a close, I knew I had to send fast. I luckily snagged the crux move from the bottom and climbed it to the top for my first first ascent in alcañiz, “odek” v10/11 (7C+/8A). As I watched the final bit of light disappear, I vowed to return as soon as possible!

#3: Burj Khalifa, Three Corners South Africa V9 (7C) (July 2015)

I spent the majority of my 2014 South Africa season climbing only within a stones throw of the car.  It was pretty incredible to have an area all to myself with hundreds of problems to attempt to open each day.  At the end of my trip, A local friend of mine told me about some possible potential in a close by valley.  I hiked up and came across another zone that blew me away.  I left South Africa that season and knew I would return the next year to develop this new zone.  I thought about this area almost every single day and finally the end of May came around an I made my way back to this magical valley.

I spent the majority of my days cleaning new blocs and climbing on them when the temps were good.  When I first set my eyes on this dark grey wall at the back of the canyon, I was transfixed.  I could not believe how perfect and pure this line was.  From the ground, I could not tell if the line was possible or not.  After rapping in, I was amazed to see that the line was not only possible but just enough holds to make it to the top.  I played out my pads and began trying.  the first move revolved around a pull on and jump from a really bad side pull to a sloppy edge high up on the wall.  the hold was at full extension for myself and the move deemed to be quite low percentage.

I eventually made the move and encountered the crux sequence which revolved around a crazy high step and a mantle on a near vertical wall to a small crimp high on the face.  I gave a couple of mediocre attempts but was scared but the potential big fall from this move.  Eventually, I got the courage and went for the lock off/mantle with all of my might.  I barely made it to the crimp and just grabbed it with my left hand.  From there I stood at about the 4 meter level and eyed the last few crimps to the top.  This terrain ended up being not that difficult and in no time I was on the top of a new 5 star line deep in the heart of the Cederberg Mountain range!

Picture: The crux mantle to the small crimper. (Video coming soon)

 

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#4: A Long Way Gone, V6 Zimbabwe (July 2015)

Since 2011, I had always dreamed of checking out this new area in the mountains of Eastern Zimbabwe.  A friend of mine discovered the area and after showing me pictures, I knew one day I would have to see it for myself.  In 2015, I finally got the chance and made the long enduring trek from South Africa, over the border, and into “real” Africa.

It took us 2 days of travel to reach our final destination.  We arrived at night not knowing what to expect the next morning.  When we woke up, there was no rock in sight.  My friend Dan assured me that on the top of the mountain was where all the rock lay.  We began the trek and a trek it was!  It took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to finally get to the first set of boulders.  As soon as I could see the first set of boulders, I began to walk faster and faster.  As far as I could see, there were boulders on every hillside; it felt like paradise.

On our first day of exploring I made my way through this large valley and all of a sudden saw this large boulder sticking out of the sand but itself.  I ran over to it and looked up at a twenty foot tall right facing rail up a slightly overhung wall.

At the time, I only had two small pads with me but decided to venture up the wall anyway.  I made it about half way up a few times and jumped of because I was not certain of where to go at the top.  I finally decided to give it an actual effort.  I set up m go pro on a rock (which eventually tumbled over) and made the first ascent of this incredible piece of rock in the middle of the African Continent.

Not many people have ventured outside of South Africa to find new rock and this experience is one I will never forget.  I cannot wait to get back there again next Summer and continue to explore the area more as the potential seems limitless!

Here is video of the send🙂

 

Top 5 First Ascents from 2015

At the very end of 2014, I made 5 posts on Instagram at the end of the year commemorating my five favorite first ascents from that year.

I decided to continue with this now ritual and put up a post every few days until the end of the year with a little more in depth insight into each one of my favorite first ascents from 2015. I hope you enjoy!

#5: House in the Sky, V12 (8A+) Red Rock, Nevada (Jan. 2015)

Year after year, I find myself back in Red Rocks.  Each time I leave, I wonder how much more the area can possibly keep producing in terms of first ascents.  Each year I return, I am pleasantly surprised at how the boulders seem to be never ending.

On this specific trip, I spent most of my time following around Tom Moulin who at the time was writing the new guidebook and psyched to show me some undone lines he had previously found.  One of these lines was this tall slightly overhanging face high on this hillside above all of the other established areas in Windy Canyon.  When I first saw the boulder, I did not know if it was possible.  the top just looked like it may not have enough holds to get to the top.  I rapped in on the line and quickly deciphered a way that seemed possible but felt really hard.  I worked the boulder for days with this very weird heel hook cross beta that I was certain was the only way to get to the top.

After many failed attempts, I knew I was going to have to figure out a new way to get to the top.  I eventually found this very precarious heel hook that made the crux feasible.  From there it was a sketchy top with bad feet that stood between me and the first ascent.

I remember coming back after a rest day knowing that I had all the beta figured out, I just needed to execute.  I warmed up slowly, re chalked and brushed the slopes hands and feet at the top and made my way to the start of the climb.  The first time I made it through the bottom crux, I shut my brain off and fired the top section high above a scary landing.  It felt amazing to stand on top of this boulder with mountains and the setting Nevada sun in the background.  Another gem added to the multitude around Red Rocks!

Video at the end of this prAna video🙂

 

~Australia~

After my first trip to Australia, I was not sure if I would return again. I had over 20 days of rain in a single month and didn’t know whether or not it was worth the travel to go there again and have my fate be the same. After talking to Jimmy, I decided I would give the country another chance and make the long trek back.

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I landed in Melbourne in a rain storm and watched the rain fall for the next two weeks climbing sporadically when it was not pouring. Thankfully the weather made a huge turn around and the last month of my trip was mostly amazing conditions in a new area that we found with some help from local, Dave Kellerman.

Having the Uncharted Lines film project looming over my head, it was a relief to find this zone and begin developing it! I have to say climbing and filming is hard work. I love both but it gets tough at times to do both well. I find myself always needing a creative outlet and that is why I do video. I am not obsessed with making sure I film all of my climbs, etc but rather take a completely different approach. I want to make climbing, these areas, the people I interact with, come to life for those around the world. I love sharing my passion for climbing and to be able to do that through video is a dream come true. Uncharted lines has been a dream of mine to make for some time and I am so excited to be working with all of my best friends on this project for the next 1.5 years.

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Alas, back to Australia. Running around through the new boulder field each day was awesome! The whole crew had projects and it was fun to support everyone on their lines and develop the zone. I have to say one of my most memorable first ascents of the area was “The Anvil.” When I first saw the boulder I knew I wanted to climb it. It is tall, proud, hard and has an obvious start and finish. After cleaning the top out I realized it was quite wet but wanted more than anything to climb it. After figuring out the bottom, I managed to make my way through to the break where you can either drop off or basically free solo the end (you can no longer have pads as there is a stream that runs by the boulder). The ending is not that hard maybe around v5 or 6 but it was wet. I gritted my teeth and decided to go for it. I was a bit pumped and each hold I grabbed my hands and feet got wetter and wetter.  There was no turning back now. Thankfully, I groveled my way over the top to make the first ascent, unscathed.

After a month of developing the new zone it was time for everyone to part ways. I am now off to Russia and then Switzerland for some recon and bouldering before I go back to the states to co tinge filming for Uncharted Lines in the southeast USA.

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Make sure to check out @uncharted_lines on Instagram and stay tuned! I can’t wait to see where life takes me next!

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~Zimbabwe~

Two friend of mine, Dan and Paul, randomly visited a mountain range in the highlands of Zimbabwe in 2011 while traveling around Southern Africa. He told me about A few first ascents he did in the area but was unsure of the potential that the area held. It was not until this year that we were both in Cape Town at the same time that it made sense to make the trek to Zimbabwe in search of a new area.

I could feel the excitement and nervousness as we all packed our bags the night before leaving the comfort of Cape Town. The next day proved to be a beautiful one as we approached the border of Zimbabwe. It was only 5 pm and I had high hopes we would be able to get out of South Africa, over the Beit Bridge and into Zimbabwe in no time. What seems like a simple endeavor turned into a 4 hour horror show. On the South African side it turned into multiple mad rushes of Africans from one departure terminal to the next. At each terminal the local people made sure of it to not let us in line. They would squeeze themselves together so tightly and push us out of the line so that we would not be able to get back in. It was such a shame to see such racism in 2015 as we were the only white people trying to cross the border.

The Zimbabwe side was no easier. The people were more friendly but only because they demanded bribes from us. Do you want someone to look at your passport and get a visa, ok that is going to be X amount of money. Do you want your car inspected before midnight, ok pay this guy Y amount of money oh and the police over there, they want Z amount of money or else you won’t be allowed over the border. After hours of arguing with them and trying to deal with only actual Zimbabwe officials we made it over the border having paid a few hundred dollars not knowing if we had paid actual fees or been ripped off. Regardless, we set off into Zimbabwe.
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After countless police checkpoints making sure we had the most obscure safety measures on the car, or else they too would want bribes, we began to get tired and needed to sleep. We set up camp at a small campsite on the side of the ride adjacent to a village farm.

The next day was full of more police checkpoints, pot holes the size of Texas, and a desire to finally get to our destination. After countless hours of driving, the crew had made it. It was dark, so there was no way to see the potential of the area but we excitedly set up our tents, made dinner, and went to sleep.

The next morning I was told about the trek ahead, 1.5 hours up a 450 meter mountain that would lead us to a boulder field of questionable rock quality. We made it this far, we had to go check and see. The trek was hard! It felt something similar to going to upper upper canyon in RMNP. Once we reached the top of the plateau all I could see in front of me was rock! I felt like a kid in a candy store. I dropped my pad and began hiking over little hills and into valleys finding loads of rock that was extremely reminiscent to the rock in Cape Town. What a funny thing, to travel thousands of kilometers and find the same stone you were just climbing on. I was not complaining though because this rock type is bullet hard and lends itself to some amazing climbing potential.

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Soon after starting to explore, we ran across Derrick, the local Zimbabwe climber and a few of his friends who explained how awesome this place was and how psyched they all were on a new area. The climbers of Zimbabwe have mainly focused their time climbing on the granite boulders surrounding Bulawayo.

Day 1 quickly came to a close. Derrick told us of the porters that can bring your things up so that you can stay at the top of the mountain rather than hiking in each day. Dan had not experienced this on his previous trip and Derrick had only found out about it through pure luck before coming for his first trip this time. We left some gear with them, hiked down to our tents, and wished we had known as the hike just took forever!

The next day we hiked up again. We didn’t get porters because the plan was for the next day to drive and explore another valley in the northern section of the park.  After another successful day of exploring and putting up first ascents, we again hiked back down to the camp and made plans for the next day.

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The next day was not unlike the previous. We made it to what was called “corner camp.” A small Zimbabwean man greeted us with his family and explained that this was “corner camp.” I think it had been more than a year since this man and his family had seen a tourist. I pulled out my computer and showed him where on this google maps screen shot I wanted to go. I am not sure he had ever seen google maps before and was quite unsure how to give us directions. I began to pick out things on the horizon that looked like the topographic map. I soon realized where we were and asked how we get to this peak far off in the distance. He explained to us in a broken English that there was a trail and showed us where to begin. We said our goodbyes and set off. About 15 minutes into the hike he yelled to us and came running towards us. He arrived to where we were and explained that we need to take another trail and began to guide us. This “trail” was not a trail at all and just bush whacking through the forest. Once we reached a plateau we picked up another trail. Our guide left us and we set off for what seemed eternity trying to reach the notch in the mountain. As sunset was quickly approaching we made it to the notch.

In all directions there was rock but unfortunately the rock was not nearly the same quality as we had climbed on before at the other area. We were all a little disappointed but the sunset and views around us reminded me that even though we didn’t find rock, I was in one of the most beautiful and pristine mountain ranges I had ever visited. We did approximately 17 kilometers that day and came back to camp exhausted but ready to find more rock the next day.

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The next two days were similar to the first few. We went back to the first area, made the large trek up the mountain and found more and more fun rock to be climbed. I found a really cool zone that I cannot wait to explore on a future trip and can now definitely say, there is way more bouldering potential than what lays in rocklands and the cederberg of South Africa!

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Onward to Australia now🙂

~Iceland~

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The idea of going to Iceland all started at the beginning of this year when Chadd Konig pitched the idea to prAna. The idea was to do a surfing/climbing shoot in the Fall/Winter 2015/16 catalog line. I had been chosen as one of the athletes to come on the trip along with Chadd, Chris Sharma, and Anna Ehrghott. The details begun to unfold and before no time it was the end of June and I was packing my bags in Cape Town ready to depart for the small island in the Arctic known as Iceland.

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After 24 hours of travel, I arrive in the land where the sun never sets. It was 6:00 pm and the sky looked like it was brighter than ever and a sunset was nowhere in sight. Having been in South Africa for the past month, it was quite refreshing to see the sun late into the day, as I had grown accustomed to nightfall around 6:00 pm. An Icelandic man named Ingo picked me up from the airport. He thought he was picking up a photographer but was quite surprised to see my surfboard bag and crash pad in tow. We quickly left the airport and rushed to meet the others at the local hotel. As we drove, he pointed out local surf spots along the way. The change of landscape was incredible. Just a day ago I was in the mountains of South Africa alone climbing in what felt like a completely different world.

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As Ingo and I arrived at the hotel, the only sound that could be heard was that of a slight wind. The crew had taken up the majority of the hotel and everyone was fast asleep. I made my way, with all of my belongings to my room. We had a bit of a bunkroom and I was sharing a room with Chris, Chadd, and the photographer for the trip, Chris Burkard. This was the last moment of silence for the rest of the trip.

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As I stumbled into the room, the crew awoke from their catnaps and we all began discussing plans and objectives for the trip. Soon enough everyone was awake and I was introduced to the others who I had not yet met and we all ventured out to the first bouldering spot. What looked to be a very mellow and easy hike, soon became epic as hundreds of birds began attacking us as we ran through a field trying to reach some sort of safety that we thought the small cliff band would bring us. The birds swooped down trying to attack us and I put my pad over my head so that they would attack the pad rather than my head. The cliff band ended up having a few fun climbs but the highlight of that zone was for sure the bird frenzy that arose from entering and exiting the area.

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At this point it was to the beach we went for some midnight surfing. The sun still had not begun to set and I was starting to think when would we ever sleep if it never got dark. The waves were quite small but Anna and Chadd seemed psyched to paddle out. The photographers got in position and the rest of the crew relaxed on the beach quite tired and in somewhat of a daze. At around 1:00 am the sun began to get a bit low in the sky and it became a photographers dream. The clicking of the shutter was a constant sound as the light just got better and better.

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The following days followed suite, lots of traveling, climbing, and searching for waves. It was pretty incredible to be driving down the road whether it was during that day or at 2 in the morning and if we saw a boulder to climb on we would hop out of the car, get the pads, clean the line up and make a cool new first ascent. One that was really memorable to me was when we were driving down highway 1 and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an arête on the hillside. We stopped our caravan of cars and rallied up the hill to check out it. Chris and I started to chalk it up and realized it would be a pretty cool line. We set out the pads and got to work. Soon enough, I made the first ascent of what I called, “Shaped by Vikings.” What a cool way to really kick off the trip.

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We finally made it to our final spot where we would be spending the remainder of the trip, the small town of Höfn. A few minutes drive from the town is an expansive black sand beach that houses some of the better surfing and bouldering on the island. We were unfortunately plagued with a bit of bad weather and no swell for the first few days but eventually the swell arrived and the sun came out at the end of the week. That always seems to happen on short trips like that.

The last few days of the trip were a bit of a mad rush. Keith Ladzinski joined the crew to shoot video and there was not a moment of down time. On one of the days we ventured off to the rope-climbing crag to get a few shots. The rock was this really cool frictionless black basalt and lent itself to some very fun technical climbing. Chris and I spent the day climbing on anything that caught our eyes. We had no idea about any of the grades of the climbs and it was really nice to just climb for fun and not worry about the difficulty of any of the lines.

We also received a day of swell and capitalized. The water was absolutely freezing cold but Chadd, Anna, Chris, and myself braved the cold and ventured off into the sea to catch some waves. It was a fun little beach break. After a few hours in the water, I could no longer feel my limbs and had to get out. Let’s just say getting out of a wetsuit outside in Iceland is not a fun endeavor! Ill stick to surfing in the tropics😉

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As soon as the trip began, it ended. I was back in Reykjavik, packing my bags and preparing for the long journey back to Cape Town!