Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summertime, and the living's EZ

In a list format, this is just a reminder, mostly to myself, but others are welcome to read, of the things I've done this summer.  It's been a BUSY one!  Had a bit of a late start since returning from China due to a rainy spring, but overall it's been a great summer.  Definitely have been making the most of my '4 days', which we refer to as our time off when you work our schedule, which is 48 hours on and 96 off, or more simply 2 on 4 off.  Because of my schedule, my summer kind of goes something like this:  Get off work, pack up truck/car/motorcycle, hit the road to go camp/climb/etc.., get back last day and unpack, work 2 days, get off work and repeat.

-Solo motorcycle trip to central Oregon, crashed my bosses camp outside of Bend (no, I didn't crash, I just crashed his camp).  My longest single day of riding that first day, 470 miles.  Rode from Bend through the backside of Mt. Hood and on to Hood River for another night.

-Motorcycle trip with Amanda to Grand Coulee Dam

-Truck trip to Bigfork, MT for the whitewater kayak festival and Quinn's Hot Springs

-Motorcycle trip with Amanda to Canada to do one of the beautiful Selkirk Loop rides.  We stopped over in Nelson, took the Ferry to Balfour, and ended up coming back to Idaho through Bonner's Ferry.

-Day trip on motorcycle to Thompson Falls, Mt over Thompson Pass, always a beautiful ride.

-Rode motorcycle to meet friends in Riggins, ID for white water rafting trip on the Salmon River.  A fire department red shift traditional trip.

-Took car with Amanda to Jackson Hole, WY to meet my friend Terry, a Canadian turned Australian who I met earlier this year in China.  He was doing a Northwest U.S. and Canada trip so it was a good place to meet him during his travels and do some climbing and whitewater rafting on the Snake, River.  We camped just outside of the Teton National Park with a great view of the range.  We had many meals and beverages at The Snake River Brewery, the best brewery in the world is all :)

-After returning from Jackson and working 2 days we turned right around and headed the same direction towards Colorado.  This trip was a pack the truck full of gear to survive 2 weeks living in it trip.  This is my annual 2 week self named "Mountains and Microbrews" trip that I usually take in Oregon, and consists of the obvious, climbing mountains and scoping out new breweries.  We covered all of Montana including a stop in Billings for Montana Brewing Co. and most of Wyoming the first day of the drive and only had a few hours left in the morning to get to our first destination, Boulder, CO.  We spent a few days in Boulder doing some climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and exploring of the yuppy, overcrowded, but cool town.  Next stop was through Boulder Canyon to camp outside of Nederland.  After getting rained out climbing here, we took off to spend a few days in Estes Park, the gateway town to Rocky Mtn. National Park.  We found an awesome place to camp nestled way up on the nob of a mountain that overlooks the park.  From there we hiked in roughly an hour each day to a climbing area, and each day hiked/ran back to the truck being chased by rain and typical afternoon thunderstorms that happen in the Rockies.  We spent a day driving through Rocky Mtn. Park but didn't do any climbing, just did the tourist thing.  After the park we ended up in Steamboat Srings, CO.  I contacted a friend that I thought was living there at the time and I just happened to be right.  In fact he was working at one of the timeshare resorts by one of the local ski areas in town and he hooked us up with a free timeshare that was disgustingly huge and fancy.  We would have been happy parking the truck in his driveway, but we settled for a this 3 room suite complete with hot tub, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, living room, etc....  In Steamboat, which is an awesome town btw, we went hot springing, mountain biking, hiking to the falls that is advertised on the Coors can, and sampled the nightlife with our friends.  Steamboat was our last official destination, then the trek home through Dinosaur State Park, Flaming Gorge, and the Wind River Range began.  We made it as far as the southern end of the Bitteroots in MT before we spent the night coming home.  The next day was a leisurely pace from Salmon, Idaho and up to Missoula to get home.  In 2 weeks we covered parts of 5 states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah).

-I drove to Canada to climb the south ridge of Mt. Gimli with a guy named Matt from Leavenworth, WA.  It was a climb I had wanted to do for quite some time and was worth every bit of getting up there.  It is located in the Valhalla Provincial Park, and is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever seen.  The climb was equally as pleasing, as it is one of Fred Beckey's 100 Classic North American Climbs.  It was a 14 hour day from truck to the mountain / climb / and back to the truck.

-Relaxed near home for a weekend to go to the Silver Mountain Microbrew Festival and took a day trip on the bike up to Priest Lake.

-Amanda, Cliff, and I Made a trip in the truck to Lake Koocanusa to climb at Stone Hill.  Always an enjoyable trip that we try and make time for every year.  We love the area, the climbing, and the lack of people.  I have loved this area since I was a little kid when when we used to come here a lot to go fishing and camping.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

xie xie China

Wrapping up things from China as I sit on the plane for my 15 1/2 hour plane ride over the Pacific, so yeah I've got a little time to kill.  Since being in China for nearly a month, I've just come to the conclusion that a question you just don't ask yourself is "why?".  While you are constantly wondering "why" (why is he doing this, why do they do it this way, why do they eat that, etc...), there never really seems to be a logical explanation for so many of the things you see while traveling in China that you eventually just become a part of it, and there are probably just as many Chinese wondering the same thing about myself.  The people are really friendly, particularly the English students.  There is a rooftop bar above a hotel that we frequent after dinner for a game of pool that a lot of the students hang out at.  They are always looking to practice their English so an evening spent here is full of all kinds of funny conversations with all sorts of random people from travelers to students.  Some times the conversation can change subjects as quickly as the weather does here, but I get a kick out of talking to all of them.  I had a guy put his hand on my shoulder  and touch my chest and abdominal area and tell me "I like your physic".  He says you have these as he grabbed his chest and explained that "I have these" as he grabbed his own chest and stomach, "but they only fat" and laughs.  He says I think I need to learn from you, in a context like please teach me right now how to get into shape haha.  None the less there's a lot to learn about a country by talking in depth with educated English speaking students.  They've also taken us to some incredible places in town to get late night eats.  It seems that most Chinese people have English names in addition to their Chinese name, that are often chosen by themselves and have nothing to do with their Chinese name.  I've met people with names from Henry to Apple or Breeze.  Henry, asked us if we could take him climbing with us the next day.  He showed up the next day precisely when we told him we would leave with his lunch packed and ready to go.  When we got to where we were climbing at we learned that he didn't want to climb but only to watch, he says "no I think it's too dangerous for me, I only look".  Darryn taught him a friendly lesson while we were out about littering after he innocently threw the plastic package from his lunch on the ground at the crag we were at.  He thought it would be okay because it would be "fertilizer" and Darryn sort of gave him the run down about what's appropriate to leave on the ground and why.  Henry felt that because he was Chinese that it was okay to put those things on the ground, but was quick to understand what Darryn was telling him and would respecfully ask us after eating even his fruit if it was okay to put on the ground.  There are often piles of garbage found in random places that would be absolutely beautiful besides the fact there is random garbage strewn about.  This is not unlike many other places I've traveled to, some better, some worse, but I wouldn't consider China a dirty place, especially for the amount of people that occupy the land.  I've seen piles of garbage and random litter in just as many beautiful places at home that was probably put their from purely lazy and disrespectful people rather than ignorant or uneducated.  Once you have been in China you certainly understand why they enforce the one child law, because it is very overpopulated and it shows even in rural areas. 
It's funny how you can become a "regular" at a place even if you are a tourist in the middle of China.  I've got a few favorite places in town that I go to eat or have drinks etc.  I've gotten to know some of the owners very well and am often greeted by name when I come in and they usually ask if I want what I ordered last time.  There is a guy at one of the clay pot rice restaurants who is the owner and chef and speaks really good English.  When I come in he always comes out from cooking to take my order because his staff doesn't speak English, and always makes exactly what I want to my preferred spice level.  I've often come in to eat when he wasn't there and they call him on his cell phone to take my order to relay to the chef. He also made me one of Yangshuo's specialties which is a dish known as beer fish.  They fry up a whole fish in a spicy beer sauce covered with mixed veggies.  When I ordered it he walked a few blocks away and came back with a bag.  He showed me inside the bag and sure enough it was full of water with a live fish swimming inside of it that I was about to have for my dinner.  I guess that's one way to assure freshness!  I had one of the bartenders named Fem ask me where I was last night after I didn't show up the previous evening for pool.  There are some great street food stir fry joints that have about 20 different choices of pre chopped veggies and meats out in little baskets and they just give you bowl with a pair of tongs and you mix up your own dish to be fried up all for about $2.00 including a drink and side of rice.  A popular desert here is sugar cane, and you just buy a 4 foot stick of it from one of the vendors that hauls the sticks around by bicycle trailer and go to town like a primitive animal spitting  out the core after you get all the juice out. 
In the climbing world, Robbie has taken off for the UK to visit his grandmother which has left Darryn and I to climb together nearly every day right up until my last evening in Yangshuo.  We've tried to visit different crags everyday.  Some times it's more of an adventure trying to find them by bicycle than climbing is. Riding our pink beach cruiser style bicycles through the traffic in town is actually an adventure in itself.  You really get to see a lot of different areas and ride through a lot of small villages on the way that provide an interesting insight to the way of life in rural China.  There are graves all over, often in the front areas of peoples homes or just alongside the roadway.  They are generally big piles of dirt covered in some stones and maybe some decorative cement pieces.  They are easy to distinguish because many of them have the remains of fireworks all around them which are traditionally lit off near the grave to scare away the bad spirits.   Darryn and I have gotten along really well and climb a very similar grade so it's been a pleasurable time climbing.  We ticked a couple of multi pitch routes together which has been a nice change of pace from doing single pitch routes and offers some great views.  The only problem with the multi pitch climbing here is the unstable weather.  We began a multi pitch one day that seemed like a perfect day, not too hot and not raining.  We got one pitch up and before you knew it we were completely soaked through in the middle of a monsoon with thunder and lightning to add to the fun.  Being high and wet on a cliff in a lightning storm is obviously less than ideal so we made a quick retreat to some caves at the bottom of the cliff where we sat for at least an hour while we watched so much rain come down you could hardly see out of the cave.  Darryn and I were climbing at a crag with two other Chinese climbers one day who were doing a multi pitch route to the right of us.  While we were getting ready to climb we heard a bunch of noise and a loud scream.  In an instant it was raining down dirt and rocks near us and a huge crash came down in the trees followed by silence.  We were both sheltering ourselves under the cliff and wondering what the fuck was going on.  Darryn hollered up to them out of sight to ask if they were okay, also followed also by silence.  We were both thinking the worse but finally one of them yelled that it was okay.  We then saw the small car sized boulder that they had pulled off from up above that landed in the bushes.  Fortunately they were both okay, we were okay, and the climber that pulled it off only had couple of bruises on his stomach from the incident.  Goes to show another reason wearing a helmet is never a bad idea even at the bottom of a sport crag when you are belaying.  Back at the Climbers Inn I was sitting on the couch when a group of new climbers were freshly arriving from the airport.  As they walked past me I actually recognized one of them, a guy named Paul who was a Kiwi that I had climbed with last year while we were both in the Blue Mountains of Australia.  Small World!  He was visiting with about 6 other New Zealand climbers.  We all went out to dinner for a traditional chinese dinner that evening with Lilly who helped us order all of our dishes. 
My last evening Lilly took Darryn and I out to eat at an Indian Restaurant that we both really like.  Lilly isn't much a fan of any other food than Chinese, but was a great sport about pretending she liked the food.  She generously paid for both of our meals and said that the guest never pays.  The climbers inn has a great sense of community and Lilly is so great about everything that it's more like staying at a house where she is mom.  You are definitely treated as a guest and not a customer.  I stayed awake most of my last night to finish up some gift shopping, get a massage, and adjust to the time change I'll suffer from when I get home and have to shortly go back to work, yikes!  I'll be overnight in LA and home the next day to close out just over two months of traveling and climbing that has been nothing but awesome.  I can honestly say I love the life I live!  I'm as excited to come home and enjoy the rest of spring and summer as I was to leave when we were closing out winter and I was getting antsy.  Traveling, while not always glamorous at all times, is so refreshing and educational in so many ways that one could never understand that doesn't.      

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ne How

Since the original crew I was climbing with took off I've joined forces with a couple of guys staying at the climbers inn with me named Robby and Darren, both from Australia.  They had just returned from a trip to Getu, a recently developed climbing area thanks to the Petzl Rock trip in extremely rural China that is about a day and a half worth of travel from Yangshuo.  I have been tempted to visit Getu as well while I'm here but I think it will have to happen on a different trip, and would probably be a better place to show up with a partner than not.  the rock however is supposed to be in prisitine condition and not polished at all unlike some of the areas in Yangshuo due to constant climbing traffic on a route.  Since there is only 3 of us climbing we usually opt to rent a bicycle for the day which runs about a dollar fifty and ride out to the crags which has been a good way to see the countryside and get in shape at the same time.  Weather is still really unpredictable and some of the most humid weather at times I've ever been in, the kind where you walk outside and feel instantly wet.  There is a huge national holiday going on right now in China known as May day and Yangshuo is a massive Chinese tourist destination.  Chinese tourists are as funny in China as they are known to be in the states, traveling in huge packs on tour buses, fully decked out with huge SLR cameras around their neck, and the local apparel of whatever city they are visiting.  They purchase any tourist item you can think of for sale.  Some groups have name tags and leaders of the group carry big signs identifying them as they march through tourist attractions.  They are snapping a million photos as soon as they step off the bus.  The other day we were climbing on a cliff that was a good 10 minute hike up the hill from the nearby road.  An ambitious college aged Chinese tourist hiked up to where we were climbing because you could see us from the road.  When he got up to the base of the cliff where we were at he was out of breath and sweating but still loudly announced that "it is SUCH an honor to meet us and welcome us to his country"!  He said that his family and was waiting for him down in the van he came in so he had to leave soon but wanted to tell us that his dad wanted him to tell us that if we could climb to the top of that mountain peak then we could do anything in life!  It was truly heartfelt, and as quickly as he appeared he was gone again hiking back down to his van.  While if this happened at a local crag at home you would probably think the guy was nuts, but it was one of those moments that just makes traveling so great. Most of the tourists are fascinated with climbing and its not uncommon to have them right next to you at the bottom with a video camera rolling in your face and pointing and talking at you while you're climbing.  Of course that is only at the crags that are close to town or other tourist destinations, most of them are fairly remote and provide some serentity as well.  Some people chose to flee town during this crazy time when all the hotels get booked up and the streets are (more) crowed than they usually are, but I kind of enjoy the chaos.  Lilly, the hotel owner is even giving all the climbers a half price discount, which is still twice what we normally pay, but the rates nearly triple during this 3 day holiday, and she's been generous enough to let us all stay for a lower rate and is refusing Chinese customers because she's booked full.  She is a very generous woman for making such a decision but she is a climber at heart and loves hanging out with the climbers and says "they don't complain like other customers".  Lilly is full of personality and is great to hang out with.  She bases most of her knowledge of the western culture on Sex and the City which she routinely watches and is fascinated with.  She's constantly picking our brain to find out if what she's seeing is really how it works where we're from haha.  The climbing scene is good here and is a nice mix of international and local climbers as well at the crags.  It's kind of funny how the climbing community works when you travel, but the common root of climbing seems to draw all climbers together to make a pack of friends that all eat together, hang out together, and climb together no matter where you are from or who you are with, everybody just seems to get along and make instant friends.  It makes traveling alone seem like you are never really alone which is nice.  Some incredibly strong climbers are attracted to Yangshuo and it's not uncommon to see guys climbing up 5.13-5.14 routes, which are among some of the worlds most difficult climbs.  Watching some of them make you just want to throw in the towel and give up climbing all together haha, okay not really, but it does make you sick how incredibly talented they are with what seems like such little effort.  After climbing yesterday my shoulder has been kind of acting funny and feels like a small tear or impingement thing going on so I'm resting for a couple of days to let it calm down and hopefully I'll finish out the trip climbing hard again.  Meanwhile I'm just soaking up the holiday craziness going on in Yangshuo

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

China Red

Just over a week now into my trip to Southern China and I've finally got some time to spare since most of my newly found Australian climbing partners have departed for home today.  I arrived in communist china after my 15 and a half hour flight from LAX took me over the pacific and  landed in Guanxio.  From there I had another one hour flight into Guilin before I set foot on actual asian soil.  I caught a shuttle from guilin to the town of yangshuo which I enjoyed the hour and a half ride passing by giant limestone carsts, muddy rivers, water buffalo, and chinamen and women tending to rice paddies that occupy nearly every stretch of usable land.  Driving in china is no different than what I remember from most other asian countries I've visited, chaotic, but it seems to work.  How there are not bodies strewn all over the streets from the collage of busses motorcycles, tractors, semi trucks, taxis, bicycles, and pedestrians that all share a two lane road with a seamingly orderless means of sharing it is beyond me?  I arrived in Yangshuo to find it bigger and busier than the quant little town I imagined it and as it's commonly described.  In fact appart from being able to be in the relatively rural countryside within 10 minutes from here there's parts of yangshuo where you wouldn't know the difference between being here or being lost in the middle of bangkok somewhere.  I'm staying at a place that ironically enough is called the climbers inn and is located in central yangshuo in the main tourist district.  Lilly runs the place and is a chinese woman who has picked up most of her climbing skills and interest from the traveling climbers that stay here.  She helped me get sorted right away and is incredibly helpful with just about anything you need.  For 10 dollars a night with mostly warm showers and usually working internet, the place is clean so it's hard to complain, and it's somewhat of a hub for climbers which is helpful when you are traveling solo and looking for climbing partners.  I had made arrangements prior to coming to asia to meet up with a climber from Tasmania who was planning on being here with a group of his friends during the same period of time so I didn't have to search for partners right away.  I met Owen and his gang my first night in town for dinner and some drinks at one of the best chinese food joints in town called cloud 9 for a traditianal chinese dinner in which everybody orders what they want and then puts it on a lazy susan in the middle of the table so you can sample what everybody orders.  Makes for some interesting meals when you're with adventurous eaters in china and the menu conatains items from hamburgers to traditional chinese to dog meat, frog, and snails, and yes I'm actually serious.  Anyway, my newly found crew consisted of a just over 50 year old retired skydiver woman named Susie from australia who was climbing as hard as any one of us here, an 18 year old australian kid named Matt who still lives at home and works at a grocery store and climbs upper 5.12 grades maybe even 5.13 (for the non climber that this number means nothing it means its a very difficult route), another Tasmanian local named Ben, a younger australian couple Paul and Beckie, an inspiring 63 year old originally canadian turned australian by the name of Terry who isn't letting a triple bipass slow him down,  Owen the Tasmanian guy that basically set it all up, and myself the lone American.  Quite the dynamic crew!  I could tell we were going to get along just fine afer the first night of dinner and drinks from a rooftop bar looking down on the chaos of yanshuo nightlife that carries on until 2-3 am every night.  The crew was taking a rest day the day following so I went out climbing with Lilly the owner of hotel who gave me a nice introduction to yangshuo climbing and finding my way around and finding the right bus etc which can be a little tricky without speaking or reading chinese...  There is certainly less English spoken here than other parts of Asia I've visited which makes for some interesting communication results sometimes and definitely adds to the fun and challenge of being here.  You are never "really" certain what your getting when you are ordering meals, arranging transportation, etc...  The rest of the time with the crew we stuck to a pretty routine schedule of meeting for breakfast, choosing a crag to climb at primarily based on weather, meet at their hotel for arranging transportation to the crag, climb most of the day, meet up for dinner and repeat daily.  Climbing has been excellent on incredibly varied limestone with lots of tufa climbing.  I'd say it rains 5/7 days here but many of the crags are several hundred feet tall and overhanging which keeps the whole area dry even in the near monsoon rains we've gotten sicne I've been here.  The rain is almost a bit depressing at times but being able to climb in it has kept me sain othewise I certainly would be traveling onward. 
Rest days are spent doing odds and ends around town, soaking up the asian culture, and getting cheap massages.  Susie and I took  cooking class which may be one of the highlights of my trip.  We first went to the market to learn how to select our ingredients, which was an experience in itself.  Those sensitive viewers, animal rights activists, or weak stomached folks reading the blog may want to skip a line or two, but it's reality in asia so I'm going to write about it.  The wet market included masses of fresh vegies of all sorts grown from local farms.  The animal section was something else!  Hundreds of tubs of fresh seafood / snakes / snails / eels / frogs and many other misc. small creatures awaited their destiny in somebodys meal.  There were trays that resembled going to the deli at the supermarket full of pickled chickens feet, eyeballs, and just about any other animal part that you could think of.  The back corner of the market contains the real touchy area for some people, where they have both live dogs and cats in crates with a few of them already skinned and hanging up from the booth.  I witnessed one lady grab a cat with a metal claw around it's neck and take it out from a crate of about 8 other cats and then proceed to jam a metal fire stoker looking thing into the back of its head prior to preparing it for sale.  Kind of hard to separate yourself from this kind of thing when as a culture we don't see these animals as food but rather as friends, but I just imagine that some people may think the food we eat is sacred or wrong as well (such as the cow in India).  Anyway, after we got our ingredients (no dog or cat) Chef Panda taught us how to cook sweet and sour pork, a beef chili mint dish, and dumplings, which all turned out great and we got to devour them when we were done.  My dumplings could use a little help in the aesthetic department but they tasted delicious.  Ironically enough our cooking class was right next to the only McDonalds in town.  I also found a place in town that not only has great pizzas, but features many imported beers, two of which are Rogue, which makes me very happy to have the option to mix it up from not so incredible local Chinese beer every now and then.  Well worth the 6 dollars a bottle for a small taste of home! 
I've exceptionally enjoyed the company of all the Aussies I've been climbing with, but Terry in particular I probably get the biggest kick out of.  Originally from Alberta, I think he found some common roots in me being that I'm from an area so close to where he grew up even though it is in a different country, he loved talking my ear off about how "we" do things that's different from how the Aussies do.  He was as crusty, grumpy, and hilarious as you'd ever expect from a 63 year old guy that's still rock climbing.  I give him every bit of respect for staying active and even though he acted like we were just dragging him along whether we were climbing or out having a few drinks, deep down he was loving every minute of it.  He somewhere found a 6 pack of PBR's of all things in town which he packed up to the top of this cliff we were climbing at one day to surprise me with at the top so we could share a true American beer haha, it was hilarious!  He was always cracking jokes about being the old guy. 
I've been unable to get on Facebook or my blog since I've been here due to the restrictions that the Chinese government puts on the internet but I've cracked the Commie code, for now anyway.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mexico, Mainland to Baja

I departed for Mexico approximately 1 month ago and just arrived back home on a brief "layover" for a week before I'm off to China. Meanwhile I'll fill you in on the details from Mexico since Ididn'thave access to a computer most of the time there and didn't feel like typing a blog post on my Iphone. Jordan and I arrived in Monterrey, Mexico on separate flights after a couple hour delay due to a big storm in Dallas. It was a bit later than I cared to get in because I'm not a big fan of driving on Mexican Roads at night due to various obstacles that make it somewhat dangerous (goats, cows, drunks, lack of tail lights, cartel/police roadblocks tomention a few) but what can you do. We were met at the airport by a local climber by the name of Magic Ed, who runs a transport service for climbers to and from the airport and El Potrero Chico, our climbing destination. He uses the money he charges forthe transport to support his self acclaimed "addiction" of bolting routes in Potrero so we were happy to donate to the cause. The guy is somewhat of a legend in the area and was one of the primaryfounders in the development of Potrero. Magic Ed continues to write updated climbing guidebooks on the area and one is included in the cost of the transportation, as is a trip to the local grocery store to stock up on supplies. If you read through aguidebook forthe area you will see that this guy alone bolted damn near half of the 1,000+ routes in the area. Anyway, we arrived at our camping area called Posadas around 1 AM after an uneventful hour trip from the airport primarilyon toll roads, which are better maintained, quicker, and tend to be safer than other roads. It was hot and humid when we arrived that night, but it felt nice having just left the snow, and we pitched our tents in what seemed like a decent place for having never seen the place in the daylight. I went to bed that night lying on my sleeping pad in my undies, but woke up that next morning tucked ina sleeping bag witha liner and wearing a fleece, coat, andbeanie! For a second I thought I was still in Idaho. I was actually rethinking my decision to bring my summer sleeping bag and thankful I brought my puffy jacket at the same time. When we crawled out of our tents the next morning the temp was still cold, it was dark and cloudy, and we both looked at each other with the same wtf are we in Mexico puzzled look on our face. None the less we dawned some warmer clothes, made a quick trip to the grocery store, and before noon we were doing what we came to do, CLIMB! The Potrero looks amazing during the day as you wander into the park and dizzily stare straight up in amazement at the 2000+ ft limestone peaks. Like many places, no picture could possibly capture what it feels like to be standing at the base of the Potrero and realize just how huge the place is, how many climbs are there, and how many vertical rock faces there are all within seconds of walking distance from the road. Due to the recent economy, cartel scares, blown up American media stories of how terrible Mexico is, etc... there has been a drastic reduction of tourism in Mexico. From what I'm told there can be nearly 500 climbers here at any given time, and at the moment there was maybe 30, which meant.?.?.?......We had the WHOLE DAMN PLACE pretty much to ourselves! No waiting for any of the classic lines, minimal noise, and endless climbing on incredible limestone rock. Climbing in Potrero is different from many other places as almost everything is bolted from hundreds of single pitch routes to 23 pitch 2,000 foot multi pitch climbs with features varying from slab to crack to overhanging tufas. Sorry for the rock climber nerd stuff for those of you non climbers reading this, but just trust me, it's exciting :) Without getting too much into the everyday details of climbing, which we did almost every day here, we were averaging about 8-10 pitches (apx 1,000 ft) a day. Exciting enough anyway to be joined by a guest from Spain named Dani Andrada, who is currently one of the world's top climbers. He was there with his posse of photographers to climb at Potrero and the nearby El Salto. We weren't exactly doing the same grade of routes.

There is a giant pool complex right at the base of the park that is popular with the weekend Mexican crowd from the local town of Hidalgo and
the larger city of Monterrey. The par
k was certainly dead throughout the week, but weekends are Fiesta time for the Mexicans, and many of them pack their
cars full of food and drinks and line the street into the area to relax. It was actually really enjoyable having all the people around having such a great t
ime listening to their music and grilling up a storm. I didn't meet a single one that wasn't friendly and most of them waved to us and chatted with us and some even clapped and cheered when we came do
wn from a climb as they would gather around and probably wonder why in the hell we would want to climb up a rock face haha. The locals were as friendly and hospitable as anybody could be and often offered us extra food they cooked up and frequently gave us rides when we were walking do
wn into town from our campsite to get groceries etc... We were even lucky enough to catch a ride with a few nice looking senioritas that laughed and giggled about us in Spanish probably as much as we were laughing about th
em in English. Food was super cheap both in grocery stores and restaurants. You can buy about 8 avocados for 2 dollars, needless to say guacamole was a staple! Jordan and I cooked most of our meals there as the camp we were staying at had a full kitchen facility with refrigerators to sto
Mexico City, which has got to be one of the most crowded cities I have ever seen from the your cold goods. It also had a nice swimming pool, hot showers, internet, and restaurant, and we were paying 5 dollars a night for all of it! Our camp, Posadas, was occupied by a few American and Canadian climbers throughout the week and booked full on the weekends with the Mexican family scene. The 3 day weekend of the Mexican Holiday celbrating Benito Juarez's Birthday was crazy with fiestas! We were even invited to one with a live band, free food a
nd drinks, and fire dancing. Our last day in Potrero we celebrated my big 30 with a birthday climb followed some burritos and margaritas provided by Posadas. After a couple weeks of our religious routine of make breakfast, climb all day, recover in the pool, make a huge dinner, have a couple mexi
can beers, and repeat, we made our way back to the airport with Magic Ed again. Jordan and I both made a pleasant donation to they guy for his bolting projects as we were ever grateful of the thousands of hours he must have spent putting up the ro
utes we enjoyed, and thousands of dollars spent on the hardware for them. Sad to leave the climbing scene, but excited for some new scenery and faces and ready to rest our feet and fingers, we headed for Southern Baja Mexico after a short stop in

Once in Baja we met up with Amanda who was celebrating her spring break, and Jordan's girlfriend Kyesa, who managed to get some extra time off work and make the trip down too. We were lucky enough to have my cousin Marty and Doreen pick us up at the airport instead of thumbing the bus down as usual. We spent our first couple nights in Los Barriles, the small town where my family lives, just being beach bums and enjoying the colorful characters of the area. Marty managed to get us a Yamaha Rhino from one of his buddies as our source of transportation. Every night there, we we
re so stuffed from amazing Baja food that we could hardly stay up past 9, which is considered Baja midnight by locals. We left Los Barriles for a couple of days to take the bus up to La Paz, a vibrant city without the spring break scene of cabo and beautiful beaches. Jordan, Kyesa, and I went diving while amanda did some snorkeling off the island of Ispiritu. Highlights were multiple friendly sea lions, dolphins, and 1 huge baby whale shark. We rented some scooters another day and cruised
out of town to some
secluded beaches.
When returning to Los Barriles we went out on a chartered fishing trip
arranged by Marty's neighbo
r Patty,
who runs a small hotel / fishing business across the street from his place. She cut us a stellar deal and we got one of the best boat
captains around named Lavo. Amanda reeled in a 40 lb dorado that fed us all for the night. The rest of the time in Baja we basically did what's best to do there, and that's just relax and enjoy the v
ibe of funny locals and sink into the beautiful sand beaches surrounding the Sea of Cortez.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2011 Rolled Up

Ah.......where to start? Well I've been neglecting to blog since I returned from Australia, and it's now 2012, but I'll just pick it up from where I left off. After returning from Australia in less than one piece, I had plenty of time on my hands as I wouldn't be working or playing due my fractured and casted leg. When I healed up enough to be somewhat mobile, but not well enough to work or do other enjoyable active things, I decided it was time to catch up on some much needed home improvement projects that may have been put off another decade had I not had a reason to be home for such a long time. Not exactly my favorite hobby in the world, in fact not even a hobby at all, but it was a good time to knock these projects out. So in a nutshell the majority of my spring involved the removal of kitchen, dining room, and living room floors, learning how to tile, laying new carpet, installing appliances etc... We had an INCREDIBLY rainy spring this year so I didn't feel like I missed out on too much. Amanda and I made a trip over to the Seattle area over the 4th of July for one of her friend Kristen's wedding. First stop was a visit to the Grandfolks in Edgewood. Amanda was excited to see the huge white house and all of my grandpas animal friends. We spent a day doing the usual tourist stuff in Seattle then made our way up to Mukilteo for the wedding. We spent the 4th holiday on a party boat that may as well be considered a yacht on Lake Union overlooking the city. I felt upper class for just part of a day, as many might call it, Big Pimpin. We took Highway 2 back home and stopped in Leavenworth for some mild hiking and climbing, I mean rehab. After we returned from Seattle it would only be a few days until my very good friends Pav and Dave from Australia would be showing up on a plane in where of all places but Spokane, WA! We've been friends since '06 when we met while traveling in Thailand. Since then I have visited them in Germany, England, and stayed with them while in Australia. It was my turn to gladly return the favor and show them the splendors of North Idaho. We did some wake boarding, floated the Coeur d' Alene River, and Marcus threw a BBQ that was one to be remembered.....or not remembered.

I started work again in mid July but it only lasted until the beginning of August when I had a few trades saved up to take my yearly traditional "Mountains and Microbrews" trip in the Oregon/Washington Cascades. Amanda and I loaded up my yet to be converted cargo van and had our first stop over in Hood River, where we met up with Marcus. We took the Mt. Hood Highway to Bend for a couple days of their microbrew festival, a John Butler Trio concert, floating the Deschutes River, mountain biking, and exploring the vibrant town of Bend. We spent a couple days camping and climbing at Smith Rock State Park. We ended the trip with a hike up the South Sister for a nice view of the Cascades.

In September I bought a Suzuki V-strom 650 dual sport motorcycle to add to my list of things to do/ways to get there. I've always kind of pondered the idea of having one when I was retired or something but I figured why wait. All it took was one ride home from the dealership and I was HOOKED. I put about 1500 miles on it between September and when it became time to stop riding regularly and start skiing. I can't wait until this summer when I can actually take some trips on it. I actually can't really complain though because I've been able to ride it every month of the year since I've gotten it, yep you heard that right, global warming I tell ya! Once I put the bike "somewhat" away we were in full swing of ski season and we made our first trip of the season up to Nelson, BC for some Whitewater backcountry skiing. I got a season pass at Schweitzer so most of my time this season was spent up there. Marcus, Jordan, Amanda, and I all made a trip up to Banff shortly after Christmas to ski some sweet Canadian Rocky Snow and sit in some hot springs. Only problem was there were more rocks than snow, but what snow we did find was nice. We also learned how to play curling, I mean what else do you do in Canada when your not skiing right?

For the most part things have been pretty routine around these parts with lots of trips to Spokane's climbing gym, a few film festivals, and a lot of skiing. I did sell my dearly beloved Toyota Tacoma that I've owned since it was new in '04 and picked up the new and improved '12 Tacoma. I also abandoned the camper van idea and sold it with plans of sticking to the plain and simple camper shell on the new truck for my "local" adventures. I'm about to hang up the skis for the year and pack my backpack for early March. I'll be going with Jordan to El Potrero Chico in Mexico for a couple weeks of limestone sport climbing and dodging Cartel bullets (kidding), then we'll be flying over to meet Amanda on the Baja Peninsula for her spring break where we will hang out with the Fam in Los Barriles. After I return from Baja I've got a week to recover and work a few shifts then I'm off again to cross the Pacific for 5 weeks of climbing in China. More to come as they come!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kachoong Photo Sequence

Almost over roof when foot becomes stuck
Trying to free R foot just before falling
.....and the ride down