Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sore fingers, swimming pools and watching out for KISS


Wednesday morning we headed back to the Turtle boulder and I tried Spring Board again. It was definitely a lot harder than I anticipated due to my poor foot work. I will have to return another time for a send!

Turtle boulder, Cherry Garcia V2/3
Turtle Boulder

Dave was working on a few problems on the back of the Turtle boulder including Monkey Wrench V7
and Cherry Garcia V2/3.
Climbing a fun V1/2, Heart and Sole left.

Some fancy foot work

After a short 3 hour detour there, we headed back to the Kraft boulders to try a few things. Dave did Heart and Sole, V5 and Sarah sent Sorange V3 after conquering her fear of heights and topping out. It was EPIC.  Dave sent a V5 called Heart and Sole. Unfortunately, it was a high gravity day for me and I wasn't able to get any problems.
Sorange V3
Heart and Sole V5

We headed back in the early afternoon for some quick pool time and headed to see Penn and Teller at the was Rio-l good! They are amazing at what they do! I highly recommend going to see them next time you are in Vegas!


We woke up feeling quite sluggish and spent.  This was our only day sport climbing. We headed to the Wake Up wall at the Third Pullout with Sarah, Jeff and Kory. My warm-up was a Mic's Master, 10d onsight on top rope. It feels good to finally be able to climb harder routes! Afterwards, I worked on a similar 11a, Just Shut up and Climb right beside it.  Dave meanwhile was climbing some crimpy Native Son, 11c and Good Mourning, 11b. He even hopped on a 12a called pain check.  It was a short day, but I am definitely seeing progress in my climbing. My training is starting to pay off!

Dave on a 12a. I can't remember the name.

Soaking up the sun on the crash pad Dave brought along with us.

Dave brought the crashpad and the ladies lounged on it all day in the sun.  We headed back to the hotel and napped before heading to  dinner at a Jamaican restaurant called DW Bistro. The bistro was seriously delicious! We found out about it from Sarah's rad guide she hired to go up Cat and the Hat. After dinner we headed over to Fremont Street to see the light show. We ended up getting a little sidetracked and got quite sketched out about the area.  The light show was pretty intense. We had no idea what to expect with content and we were quite surprised to see a show about Bon Jovi, and then one about March Madness. It was mostly big disappointment on the part of the people who are supposed to provide interesting content to utilize this amazing concave screen. Rather than providing some creative visuals to engage and entertain vistors, it essentially acted as a windows 95 screen saver...which I guess isn't so bad if you are a child or completely hammered. As we were leaving the parking lot four people dressed up as Kiss were walking to their car in the parkade. Bizarre. Dave "oh, watch out Scott there's a car" Scott- "okay" Dave- "Oh, and watch out for the members of KISS". I suppose it's just a regular Las Vegas conversation.


We went for a hike to Calico Tanks in Red Rocks. In the guidebook it said it was an impressive 120 feet across and 60 feet deep. I'm sure that's true during the 'rainy' season but we had a completely different experience! The hike itself was fairly straight forward, nicely developed and a totally different environment that your typical Canadian Hike.
Calico Tanks

It was by far the hottest day of the week, so instead of doing another hike, we decided to head back to the hotel for one last hurrah in the pool!  Dave and Jeff had a ton of fun throwing rocks into the pool and retrieving them.   It was a whopping 301 Kelvin so I just sat in a lawn chair and sun bathed.

On our way to Calico Tanks

Overall, Dave and I had a fantastic trip. It felt so good to forget about schedules, work, marking etc.  This was also the first time we got to be together during Spring Break since I started working.  Can't wait to see what else we'll be getting up to this year!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Limits and Happy Americans

Cyclops V6
Today was rad. Michelle and I woke up feeling pretty tired. We sluggishly left the resort after a nice breakfast. Upon arrival of the Kraft parking lot we made a b-line to the monkey bar boulder. To our surprise there was no one there. Michelle really wanted to get the classic V2 line that hits pretty much the cream of the crop on the boulder. She needed some power spotting at first and encouragement but she managed to pull out all the stops and walked up the problem. After that I played on Monkey Bar Direct V8, but I couldn't link the bottom moves to the top moves. I'm not too upset about it. It's a very hard problem that requires lots of tension, core, finger power and coordination. I like the problem I just don't feel like I was close enough to really work on it. It's just the reality of short trips. You need to be able to set goals that are attainable within a fairly short period of time and so far I think I'm doing a good job.

After the monkey bar boulder we headed back into gateway canyon to check out some boulders. It had a very spooky vibe because we were literally the only ones back there and after only being in the canyon for maybe 10mins we turned around and headed back to kraft. On the way back I spotted a boulder just past the Alexisizier. It was a boulder I had previously tried with Adam a few years back. Cyclops and Snake Eyes. Both roughly the same grade and same style. Decent hands, terrible feet to a big move to moderate moves and a top out. I knew snake eyes was far to tall for me and I have previously only ever seen really tall people do snake eyes. So I put some Dr.Dre on my iphone, chalked up and sent. Left hand in a sloppy dish, right hand on a good edge with a high left foot, push up with a left hand to a small edge, right hand goes into some small little pockets up to a glory jug and a decent top out. Stoked to had completed a problem I had previously though to be too hard or weird to do.

After that Michelle and I headed down to the Pearl where she was stoked to try clam bumper. A V4 with a nice mellow start on a jug followed by high feet small holds to a slightly precarious top out. She was a little weary about falling the day previous but after bagging monkey bars she was riding high on confidence and took a few nice falls on the pads. She was have some difficulty getting her feet high enough once on the crux and kept on popping off. I helped her scope out some different foot holds, threw some tick marks on them and BOOM, before you know it she was manteling over the lip, elated by her new achievement.

We then headed back to the resort for a swim. I like to play pool games with Michelle. My favorite being 'who can swim the furthest while being fully submerged'. I like to think I made it up but it's just super fun to be in a pool and literally play like a kid. After that we played 'who is better at swimming between the others legs' and 'who can push off the wall the hardest'. Michelle was sick of my horse playing so we hit the hot tub for a few mins. We caught up with Sarah and Scott who did an intense hike up a local Turtle Mountain in Red Rocks. Apparently it was steep and beautiful. They headed out to the iron chefs restaurant for dinner and we prepped our bbq dinner.

Michelle and I shared the bbq'ing duties and had a really nice dinner. We also came to a bit of a realization whilst bbq'ing. There was a nice man from San Diego who was also bbq'in and he didn't hesitate to open a conversation. We realized that Canadians are far more passive and unwilling to be conversational. We also made this observation previously when we bumped into climbers from New York, Minnesota  and even the clerks at the grocery stores. Perhaps it's because people here seem to share some sort of common ideology related to freedom, liberty and all that patriotic garbage. Maybe it has something to do with the weather...? Either way I think Canadians could learn something from them.  The next time you are caught sitting next to someone you don't know, introduce yourself and make a new friend. There is no us and them, there is only us.

After dinner Michelle destroyed me at Monopoly and went to sleep. What a ruthless beast she can be...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kraft Boulders Day 2

Today we went to the Kraft Boulders.  It was another beautiful day with some wispy clouds in the air.  We started on the warm-up boulders and got the blood flowing on a few v0’s.  We went to climb Picante Sauce, which felt like doing a bouldering problem in the gym. Fantastic movement on good jugs and a fairly easy top out.  Sarah conquered her first boulder here! 
Sarah crushing Picante Sauce, v1
Me flashing Picante Sauce v1 

Afterwards, we moved a few meters up the path and Dave flashed a v6 on his second and third try. It was a problem made for him, beefy moves on a slopey arrete.  After his third try he almost stepped on a tortoise!! We all scrambled over to admire it and quickly realized he was mid-lunch before we came along and put him in survival mode.  We did get to see him saunter away after we went back to our climbing. According to the Red Rocks Conservation Center, it is extremely rare to see a wild tortoise. Swicked!

Dave crushing!

Some v6 action

Wild Tortoise!
 The Pearl was next on our list.  Sarah and I tried a v4, but it was just too crimpy.  We moved over around the corner into the shade and crushed a few v0’s and v1’s while day worked on Jenna’s Jewelery, a one move dyno v4 problem.  

Dave on Jenna's Jewellery, v4
We headed over to My Tan to try a v2, which Sarah and I onsighted. We went around the corner and tried another problem.  I decided to try a sit start variation and soon discovered it was not in the guidebook. It had some cool slopers, pinches and a heel hook.  Dave thinks its v4 territory, and I believe him! It was tough. I didn't manage to connect the sit start to the start of the v1, but it was tons of fun!
Sarah on a v2

Me trying a sit start variation of a v1, it was not in the guidebook.
We headed back early in the afternoon to go play in the pool. We did handstands, somersaults, underwater hold your breath contest.  The works really. The joke was we didn’t belong in the adult pool. :)

For dinner, Sarah, Scott, Dave and I teamed up again for a bbq’ed steak dinner, with baked sweet and regular potatoes, asparagus and mac and cheese. We also go to meet Scott’s sister and brother-in-law, Lindsay and Sean.  Delicious dinner! We did forget about dessert, so we’ll have to remember that for next time!

P.S. At the local grocery store here, you can make your own six-pack and choose from many a beer.  Dave and I have definitely taken advantage of that.  I’m also a big fan of sweet tea, which is sold in abundance here!

First day out in the sun and sandstone.

Slept like a boss, 8pm to 8am. Had a really groggy breakfast, hashbrowns, eggs, coffee and michelle insisted we have our yogurt and granola in a wine glass...women eh. Through the pads in my dirty car and took off to the red springs. The parking lot was moderately busy and we oppeted for the trail rather than the boardwalk.

First stop was at the turtle boulder where michelle worked on spring board v3 which is probably one of the funnest problems I’ve done. I had already done it on previous trips so I was focused on providing lots of beta, spotting and psych. She worked all the moves but couldn’t work the feet out. We moved over the the 20 degree boulder where I tried a v5 dyno but couldn’t stick the lip after 5+ tries so we moved over to st.louis v4 and a really fun v0.

After that Michelle needed to pee so we went back down to the outhouse and then walked over to the tsunami boulder. It was probably one of the coolest boulders I’ve seen. It was the perfect height, great climbing angles and an amazing variety of difficulty. Featuring about 6 problems ranging from v2-v10. I saw the V10 and I want to have a go at it. The angle was awesome. Probably 35 degres overhung and a stand start dyno to two really good holds to the top out. I though I stood a fighting chance, but when it came time to pull off the ground I understood the v10ness of the problem. It as crimpy pinch complex with both hands essentially on top of one another and it was hard enough to get off the ground, let alone jump to another hold.

We moved over to a borderline high ball v4 which was far too crimpy for me so we worked on a really nice v3. I did the stand start v2 second go, and did the v3 sit start first go. It was really fun because the trickyier moves were down low and by the time you were really high up the holds were fairly solid and obvious. 
We saw a really cool lizard at this boulder. He was way bigger than any of the smaller lizards I had seen previously at red rocks. The sun was starting to suck the energy out of us and michelle was starting to burn so we headed back to our resort and hopped in the pool. I splashed michelle in the face with water and gained a new personal best for swimming whilst being completly submerged. After that we had a communal taco dinner with Scott and Sarah down by the pool which was amazing. Good convo, great good, amazing setting, I don’t miss Lethbridge at all. After that we had a hot tub and discussed the top 3 places we would live if we had a 2 year contract, for both the USA and Canada. We were in there for probably a good 45 min and I was wrinkled to the nines. Headed back to the room and hit the hay. I gotta drive Kory and Jeff to go get there rental car tomorrow before we go climbing. PEACE. 

Driven to climb.

Well we made the epic drive once again. We left Lethbridge around 6:45pm on Friday and arrived in Vegas at 1:00pm Saturday. Driving through the night wasn’t all that bad for me as I intentionally slept in on Friday to hopefully persuade my body to stay up longer than usual.

I drove the first block of the trip from Lethbridge through all of Montana into to Idaho Falls where I switched with Jeff. Jeff drove almost all of Utah and it was far more challenging due to the super wet snow storm we hit in the Salt Lake region at 7am. After that I took the wheel and drove for a bit more untill we needed to fill up and Michelle took the wheel, and with one final stop in Mesquete Kory drove us into Vegas and to our awesome condo rental.

Oh Mercuh....

The quintessential Salt Lake City snow storm. 

Just in case you forgot your leather vest the gas stations here have you covered.

A Canadian car and the typical Vegas car.

This place is sick. It far surpasses any motel/hotel i’ve ever vistited. Large spacious rooms, with utnsils, blender, toaster, stove, oven, microwave and full fridge and freezer. It feels more like a ritzy time share. It also has a nice little adult pool, a kids pool with a water fall, hot tub, bbq’s, games room and probably more.

After minimal sleep on the drive down ( less than a half hour)  I’m now more than ever ready to call it a day... or rather two days.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reverse Bucket List

The next year and a half is going to be an amazing adventure for Dave and I.  When I graduated from university (the second time), working and traveling abroad was on my very long list of things to do. I find lately I am constantly reflecting on my life and I am grateful everyday for all the experiences that I've had.  When I saw Sarah's reverse bucket list I knew I had to make my own! Some of ours are very similar... there's a reason why we are good friends! 

1. Fall in love.

Dave and I at Lake Louise August 2009.
Cheesy! I know! I can't say how wonderful it is having Dave in my life.  He is someone I can share my adventures with, be silly with, who encourages me, challenges me and calls me out on my bullshit!

2. Hike the West Coast Trail and live to tell the tale!

 I honestly thought someone was going to die on this trail, but it wasn't actually all that bad... although I would not recommend making it your first backpacking trip.  I would do it again!

We finished! Celebratory fake canoe shot.
Walking across the beach.
In one of the bogs.

3. Study abroad.

 Going to Prague for a semester was the best decision I have ever made for myself. I met the most wonderful people, had a fantastic time and got to see a lot of Europe. I had professors teaching me about European history who were around during WWII and Stalin's era. It absolutely blew my mind.Traveling and living abroad, even if for a few weeks at a time, is the best thing anyone can do for themselves.  It helped me become a better me! 
St. Peter's Square in Rome with Maryam
Christmas in Prague

4. Lead a 5.10 outdoors.

  I've lead three by my count in the past year! Score!

5. Learn to run.

Before I went to Prague, I was fairly inactive. While everyone else gained weight from copious amounts of beer and deep fried cheese balls, I lost weight from the amount of walking we did on a daily basis!  Needless to say, five years ago, I was an inactive slug. I started running a few years ago. It was definitely a steep learning curve for my lungs. Since then, I have run a few 5-6 km races and a 10km. I am currently training for my first half-marathon in Calgary on May 26th, 2013. We'll see how it goes!

If you are looking to start running, I highly recommend going to the Running Room and signing up for a course. The coaches are knowledgeable and you are surrounded by like minded and motivated people.

If you are looking for some beginner friendly races, the Rocky Mountain Soap Run in Canmore is a great place to start for women. It's in a beautiful setting, there is an aromatherapy towel and a bag of all natural RMS products at the finish line! Just be aware: the course is very hilly. The Calgary Marathon is a huge event and is great for beginners (the course is basically flat).

6.  Complete a triathlon.

Enough said!
Coming into the transition zone. Photo Credit: Photography by Dave Cassidy

7. Backcountry camping in the Rocky Mountains

Despite living an hour away from the Rocky Mountains, I only really started hiking over the past five years and backcountry camping over the past two years. I must say it as quite different from the West Coast Trail, mainly because of the elevation gain.  I'm real dangerous hiking through flat terrain, but add some elevation and things tend to slow down a lot. The views are worth it though!

View from Skoki Mountain
Hiking to Baker Lake

8. Visit the Maritimes.

I was lucky enough to recieve a bursary from the Explore program (it's not hard, you just have to be a Canadian citizen and a full-time student) to study French at the Universite de Moncton for six weeks with two of my good friends!  We used this as an opportunity to see Halifax, the Bay of Fundy and PEI. We didn't quite make it out to Newfoundland and Labrador but there is always next time!

One thing I have learned over the past few years, life is what you make it.  You can choose to focus your energy on all the negative events in your life, and wallow in self pity or you can choose to be happy and focus on the positive things in your life. So go ahead and ask yourself: what's on your reverse bucket list?

I can't wait to see what my reverse bucket list will look like in five years!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why climb?

 It's all about taking something that is scary, possibly risky, physically demanding, or seemingly impossible and breaking it down into manageable chunks. During the processes of climbing your body is coursing with adrenaline, dopamine and maybe some serotonin followed by a large dump of dopamine once you have gotten to the top which makes you feel alive and high. Is this enough reason to climb? Maybe not, similar reward pathways can be attainted else where. In some ways it's like any challenge, it's about attaining a goal that at first you found daunting and once you over come the challenge you feel like you have bettered yourself, you have conquered something, you have more sex appeal, more social appeal and it boosts the ego. However with climbing there is something more, something primal, something more animalistic.

Climbing speaks deeply to the remnants of our evolutionary roots. It lights up all those instinctive neural pathways that our ancestors used in pursuits of fight, flight and daily locomotion  It's even more primal than arguably the purist sport/activity, fighting. Take any baby that can stand on two legs and put them next to something that can be climbed, there is a great likelihood that they will without any instruction whatsoever climb. People speak as if fighting is the most raw sport or form of athleticism, which I can see their point but I don't see any infants laying out each other, that comes a bit later in life.

 I also reserve to call climbing a sport. I view climbing as both an activity and a fundamental movement skill much like walking, running, swimming or throwing and it's only a sport through the comparison of specific skills and arbitrary rules. Even running, swimming and throwing tend to be skills that are actually taught once more motor skills have been developed and you can't exactly get too much of a thrill from walking can you?

...maybe you can?

The irony is that climbing is somewhat of a fringe activity. It's an intuitive human skill and activity that's suppressed in fear of danger and is completely neglected by societies interest as being something worthwhile, unless the name Everest is thrown into the mix, which is a whole other story.

I feel like I know why I climb, which can be summed up with cliché explanations of feeling of self awareness, one with the moment, fulfillment and so on, but these explanations don't offer proper justification to the subjective experience. I feel like it's a deeper experience and process that outside the realm of words. It's like trying to explain what red is to someone who is blind.

 Maybe that's why people find George Mallory's famous explanation to climb Everest lame and cheesy"because it's there". Climbing just is a naturally rewarding activity for reasons of which we cannot accurately put words to and when we do it sounds cheesy, but we know it feels exciting and intriguing and therefore we do it. Regardless of how I try to break climbing apart philosophically it won't really do it justice, so go climb something you will know what George and I are talking about.

If a lion could speak, we could not understand him- Ludwig Wittgenstein