Friday, December 18, 2015

Not Ready to be Housewives: Welcome to India

Main Bazaar

India.  I hated it upon first arrival.  Not because I actually had an educated peripheral experience.  

Buying supplies
I was a jet lagged unprepared American and it was 4 am.  
I spoke no Indian.  
I smelled of recycled air and privilege.  
With a fax number for my hotel contact and a vague mile long street location, I was .... 
I was plain lucky the kind and patient taxi driver decided to use his own phone to repeatedly call my mistaken phone number.  He asked every snoring street-side sleeper if they had heard of Karlos Kastel Hostel.  Finally he backed into a small alleyway with a smile, nod and hand motion that we had arrived.  
Public Baths, Vashisht

I was uncertain...thinking he just wanted to be rid of his pre-dawn cargo drama.  

He was right. 

We had arrived.  The 3 boys sleeping across the tiny lobby sofa's and coffee tables assisted in my check in.  My name was 'on the list' thanks to Crystal and Whitney nearly one month prior.  
I entered my private room, sweaty, exhausted and cross-eyed.  
I slept.  
Maybe I slept.  

View from the town of Vashisht

Legs twitched from 20 hours of airplane comfort.  
My journey jostling elbows in this city of over 18 million people had only just begun.  
Alone with many more hours to travel, I ventured cautiously from my 'private' alleyway to sort transportation onward.   
Whitney enjoying one of the many Chai stops
The Main Bazaar is a bustling commerce center in the heart of Delhi.  
Car horns, rickshaws, people and cows fighting for space nearly all hours of the day.  The hours zoomed by in a whirl bobbing and weaving through the street lined shops, fruit stands and occasional pile of feces…cow and human alike.  
Packing up early morning Vashisht
Finally, on the night bus, I tossed and turned almost rhythmically along with the exceptionally winding road north.  After a brief and unintended 3 hours pit stop somewhere rural northern India, due to an axle issue, I finally plopped into a gravel parking lot in Manali.  Excited my travel journey was only to be 20 minutes more, I hailed the first motor rickshaw driver in sight, forgoing any sort of bartering with the driver.  Forget saving 40 cents, I just wanted to be in Vashisht with the girls! 

Manali to Vashisht richshaw ride
A beautiful, stunning, breath taking ride from Manali to Vashisht, reignited my heart.  I had been so life busy prior to India and brain focused on travel logistics, that I hadn’t taken a moment to ponder and appreciate.  I had now reached fresh air, scaling lush mountains and ridges abound.  More perfectly vague directions dropped me off at the end of the small cobblestone road, right outside a public bath.  I ditched my gear at a local shop, backtracking a few hundred yards to a rooftop cafe.  Crystal and Whitney were anticipating my arrival on this day.  

A glorious sight for sore eyes— people and a language I knew! My shoulders nearly slid down off my back entirely as I relaxed.  
just a few of the regular roadway hazards
The girls, having 3 weeks prior to my arrival, had just completed their second foray into the Himalayas.  Their first mission included a second ascent of peak CB6a (5450 m), by their route NibbiJibbi (5.10-, 400 m).  Their second adventure climbed an unnamed 5100-meter peak in the Miyar Valley, they named their route Poornima (5.10, 600 m).  This valley was icy cold.  A long storm left them tent bound for days.  Almost October, the higher peaks were experiencing a pubescent cycle.  Immature ice, once clean rock now pitted with snow and a horrible cover-up of crevasses.  
They switched objectives and climbed a beautiful new line in a push.   
Crystal cheezin 

Seeing their smiling faces, breathing fresh mountain air and nearly touching the surrounding peaks, renewed my stoke.  I bit my lip, attempting to calm the energy boiling… What do you think, how are conditions, what is the snow line, what is the weather? 
“When do we head back in?” I blurted somewhere between “Hi” and “It is so nice to see you.”

Pitch 3 of Poornima

Shrugging, Freshy Ms Fresh was up against miles of trekking with big loads, cold climbing and wet camping.  I am not blaming these ladies for lack of enthusiasm nor diminishing their accomplishments.  I wish I could have joined.  
Its just that I was amped and a little tiredness secreted out their gaze.  
We chilled for two nights in the hippie town of Vashisht, planning and scheming.  The third day 5am a private taxi van transported us eastward 12 hours across the Himachal Pradesh.  The narrow dirt roads (bike paths in North America) carved out mountain sides.  In some places the mountain regained control, causing total destruction to our path forcing all to reroute.  Delivery trucks, public transportation buses and our taxi vans literally kissed one another as we passed.  

Whitney and CB6a

Nearing our climbing destination

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

100th Aniversary

This September was Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th anniversary. Being an obscure goal setter to keep myself interested, busy, whatever you call it, I decided to climb 100 alpine pitches in the park.

Ariana  PHOTO: Max Barlerin

At first I was trying for as many different formations in the park as possible.  This objective was going well, but saying no to the Diamond is like saying no to red wine and chocolate. You just feel better giving in.
Hallets peak is similar. It's a wonderful solo. Its a wonderful half-day climb. It's groovy to climb three times in a work day. ;).

I digress.

I counted 109 pitches. I counted the North Chimney as one pitch, as we simul-climb or solo. Having climbed it four times = four pitches.  My dearest margarita loving friend suggested a kindly correction.  If I am to count pitches, I should be counting them as per the guidebook.
So I need a recount.  The number is higher.

Either way. I achieved my obscure summer goal.  I climbed on formations that I hadn't climbed on previously. Like Chiefshead.
WTF.  Max rallied. I worked a rescue until 10 pm the day previously. 60% chance of showers and many alpine days throughout the week had me tired.
Sorry, I blacked out.  Did I just tell you I was tired.
Geronimo--PHOTO:Max Barlerin
I was hesitant. Definitely just hesitant. Bed seemed nice. 4am came quickly.
Max made coffee. He dragged my ass out of bed, tucked me into the truck, nearly pushed the yogurt into my mouth at the trailhead.

Okay maybe not that bad.

We started hiking. Clouds swirled slowly. Non-threatening poofs spooning the granite spires. Lovers not ready to part with dawns first rays.  We passed Spearhead with a minor glance. Max was on a mission for a new line on the northeast face if Chiefshead. As we neared the cliff, the lines still looked good.  Blue sky poked her head out just enough to support a mission upwards. Off we set!!  A ballsy 5.12 pitch off the deck, eventually led into some lovely 5.11 corners and cracks with 2 sections of low fifth class linking dihedrals.  We topped out just after noon and descended quickly. During our lunch break, I began my push for another climb on the Spearhead. As we packed up and meandered. Water droplets released from above. Persistent annoying mist, not a downpour. Bummer.

Arrowhead. double WTF.

I had never climbed on it. Saving it?  Blowing it!  Adam Baxter and I climbed Birds of Fire on the Northwest face of Chiefshead the day prior, bivied and rallied for day two in Arrowhead.  Arrowplane. SickbiRd.

The list.
Casual route
Black dagger
The Beaver and Staircase
The North Face
Keyhole ridge
The SW- Saber
Dalke- Cathdral wall
South buttress direct- Notchtop
Spiral route - Notchtop
Great Dihedral -First buttress of Hallets.
Culp-Bullsier  - Secomd buttress Hallets
Better than Love - Secomd buttress Hallets
Culp-Bossier with variation start - Secomd buttress Hallets
Flying Buttress - Meeker
Directisma - Chasm View Wall
Geronimo - Northeast face of Chiefshead
Birds of Fire - Northwest face of Chiefshead
Arrowplane - Arrowhead



Touch of Green on Birds of Fire

Home Sweet Home

Top of the Park
Good Morning from the Cirque

Baxter getting into the Black Dagger

Goofin off on Table Ledge

New Route, No Problem.  Max on Geronimo!

Keyhole Ridge, Longs Peak

Notchtop and her goods

Rizzo enjoying the view from Notchtops Summit

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Imogene Pass Run

Cheezin' before the start.  

Imagine a 1 year old trying to walk.  Their big ass head is too heavy atop tooth pick legs.

Muscles not yet developed, their knees lock and buckle and wobble.  Their gait is barely manageable.
Did you imagine them with a happy drooling face?

Me too!!!

Sunday Sept 13, I did my best to mimic the one year old.  My left knee felt slightly off.  Calves ached. Upper back muscles spasmed.  Quads throbbed. Walking was strange.

My lungs burned.

Support crew.  

My mind felt good, though.  I, too, was probably drooling.

The day prior, I spent my morning jogging up the ever steepening Imogene pass road.  I was not alone, hundreds of others joined for the 49th annual slog.
Ten miles of agonizing alpine splendor departed from Ouray, Colorado at 730 am.  Upon reaching the 13,100 foot treeless pass, I paused for a picture. 

tired but stoked to go downhill

I snapped one at the top of the pass and another a half-assed breathless selfie.  I didn't even waste seconds...silly seconds.... to frame a photo or ask someone to take one.  In fact, I am not sure words would have formulated a sentence, I was so pooped.

A handstand crossed my mind.  To be honest, my arms hurt from pushing off my legs during the last mile of the ascent.  One guy did stop and do push-ups.  Gave me a chuckle.

During the ascent, internal dialogue kept my mind busy.  Chase the girl in purple, don't let the heavy breather behind you show himself.  Hike the steeps fast.  This shouldn't feel easy!

For the descent, I cued up a play list Max created....ACDC started things off with the tempo I needed.

 Highway to Hell!  

The way down included another knee pounding, calf twisting 7 miles of equally steep and cobbled road into Telluride, Colorado.   I thought music might be nice.  I counted the songs...14 should get me there, hopefully less.    

The dirt road dumped out quickly into the town of Telluride.   I had mentally prepared to turn the corner onto pavement and have to run another mile thru town.  Instead I was pleasantly greeted with thousands of people and a quick 200 yard dash across the finish line.

A 17.1 mile mountain pass run.  Something I have been wanting to tick off my list since moving to Colorado over ten years ago.

I finished.

Twenty minutes slower overall than I wanted, most of that time lost on the climb.  I ran the first 5 miles in 50 minutes.  My pace changed drastically on the last 5 miles, as the terrain steepened.

I shouldn't complain, I hadn't trained.  The last time I ran over 10 miles was with Max in June and before than was in Patagonia in January.

I had hoped that hiking Longs once a week would suffice.  It certainly helped but 6 miles hiking uphill with a backpack is different than running 10 miles uphill.

That last mile above tree line took me 20 minutes!
It hurt.  Mentally and physically.

I descended at a surprisingly descent pace, overall finishing in 3:17.  I placed 5th in my age group and my legs were still attached.

Afterward, I soaked them in the river and hung out with the girls.
Oh, we also went thrift store shopping and I picked up this killer onesy :)

We then drove to Bedrock, Colorado to visit the Peoples Land.  Nao and B-man have been growing food and building a shipping container home on the land.  The garden is off the hook!!!  Plenty of cabbage for everyone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Childhood Memories; Part 1

Yosemite for the first time.  
“I am going to climb that one day,” the young girl unknowingly stated.  Her father stood by her side.  Both their toes mushed into the sandy banks of the Merced River.  Her big brown eyes gazed upwards, frame dwarfed by the 3000 foot monolith filling much of the foreground.  

Fifteen years passed before her cheeks felt the gentle twirling of wind as it exhaled throughout the same narrow valley.  The same brown eyes twinkled.   

The girl, with 4 male dirt-bag friends, nestled into their Eco-line van.  Brimming with bikes, a futon mattress, cases of New Belgium beer, climbing gear and food, had finally arrived early one morning.  Dew clung effortlessly to blades of grass.  Rock consumed their visions.  The tingling hearts of the five valley virgins added to the electricity of the crisp October air.

The gang on Washington Column
The girl climbed.  Her swollen hands littered with small scabs from each days work, fuddled the zipper to her shared tent space night after night. 

The next morning she climbed again.    

The whole gang climbed their first big wall together, family style.  

She slept on the side of a granite face for the first time.  Thousands of feet of air between her and the ground.  A little nest in the sky.  

She learned. Her smile grew.  Her mind calmed in the oddest of moments.  She cried.  She tried hard.  She laughed.  She found true joy, passion and forged unforgettable bonds. 

Twenty-six days in a row she flung herself repeatedly at the overwhelming granite jutting vertically from the sunburnt horizontal valley floor.  She hadn’t showered in equally as many days.  Stoke was high, ‘finding’ the showers proved less exciting then finding the next days route.  

The 27th day she phoned her father.  Her toes dangling into the ever constant waters of the Merced River.  “I climbed it!” she exclaimed.  The clear waters iced her battered body, tiredness seeped in.  Brown eyes closed, the girls head nestled into the familiar sandy banks where consciousness melted in the warm afternoon sun.  

She day-dreamed of the possibilities…

Friday, February 27, 2015


Libby and me finishing up the Great Roof - Alan Riling photo
“You can’t wait until Thanksgiving ledge?”  Libby Sauter honestly inquired.  Her headlamp sliced the crisp black expanse above, illuminating a sea of granite dihedral's.  A series of sloping ledges splayed 20 feet below me, with Libby perched on one of them.  I had just finished tagging up gear, merely two pitches below the location in question.

“Nope.”  I said flatly. 

Been in the back of my brain since I started leading 2 hours ago.  This momentary pause of motion, my first re-rack since the start of my lead block/Pitch 10, pushed me over the threshold.  

Libby and I started this day of climbing approximately twenty hours earlier.  At 4:30 am she blasted off the first pitch of The Nose on El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park.  
Libby on the Glowering Spot, The Nose

Gracefully dispatching the first 6 pitches without a hitch. Our ropes snagged at a pendulum on pitch 7, stalling us up for a breath-holding 20 minutes.  I tensioned out the available rope with just enough slack to get around the corner.  The snag released and our spirits perked.  The movement continued upward once again.  We reached Dolt Tower, happy with our pace.  

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  

We swapped leads at Dolt Tower, passing two parties along the way to Texas Flake.   I led a prominent feature called ‘The Boot Flake’ for the first time!  
COOL.  I monkey’ed us across the King Swing and through the Lynn Hill Traverse, once my least favorite pitch to lead.  Now, I freekin’ love it!!!  We swapped leads under the Great Roof, passing my good friends from Colorado, and again swapped for the last time at the base of the Changing Corners pitch.  

Reaching the tree atop El Capitan, I pulled in the rope as Libby finished the up the last overhanging moves of the Bolt ladder.  We casually snapped a selfie with a fancy phone, and I reported to my brother via text…”on the top of El Cap right now!!  Climbed the Nose in 8:20, one down so far!”  

Lunch on top of The Nose.  

Libby and I had mentioned to some photographer friends this particular endeavor, but interest wavered. 
"Coach" Tom Evans on the other side of the lens.

Oh well…for them.  

We were sending and psyched!!    

After snacks and a little water, we moseyed down the East ledges, reaching our stash of food in the bear bins of El Cap Meadow.  It was a little after 2pm.  Our friends, Joel and Neil Kauffman offered us some Mate and a candy bar.  Alex Honnold made fun of my shoe choice as we shoved our faces with a variety of food choices.  (I sport an old, loose pair of La Sportiva Barracudas on big wall days, instead of the ever popular TC Pro’s.)  Tom Evans continued proud encouragement as we sorted the gear for the next climb.  Rebecca Caldwell (and little Fitz) gave hugs as we walked past the meadow and a gaggle of other friends hollered monkey sounds as we disappeared into the tiny forest at the base El Capitan for the second time in 12 hours.  Refueling took just over an hour.  

The sunset during pitch 4.  Libby pushed upward, crack-jumaring and free climbing with efficiency.  

Lurking Fear was my first big wall in the Valley in 2009.  I returned this spring to free climb the first few pitches with Josh Lavigne, but hadn’t seen beyond pitch 6 in five years.  Three days prior to this adventure, Libby and I blasted up the whole route…Alzheimer on-sighting the upper pitches with a new female speed record of 7:47.  Although we were not moving as fast this go round, our pace didn't seem too far off.   

Climbing TOPO for Lurking Fear

After jugging the 9th pitch in darkness, conserving my headlamp batteries, I clicked the light on.  Our perch, a pedestal of granite, was like an iceberg in the Atlantic.  Dwarfed and isolated in the night.  

Libby handed me the rack, I was to take us to the top!

My stomach churned.  

Some tedious aid moves in the next few pitches loomed above in the void.  At times I felt crippled by the narrow beam of my headlamp, as the unfamiliarity of this route tossed minutes into the encompassing darkness.  Time and ground passes more quickly free climbing.  I narrow-mindedly missed tiny features, resorting to mostly aid climbing.  It is just slower and more tedious.  I could have smeared on little dime edges, crimped crystals with my hands, paddled upward more quickly.

Part of our gear.  

My stomach still churned.  

I sighed with relief as I completed the last difficult pitch, a 5.12 corner with fiddly gear.  During our record breaking ascent, I took a whipper up-side down while self belaying.  
It rattled me a little bit.  

The terrain finally eased to a 5.7 slab.  At the top a party was bivied in a portaledge.  They woke with my passing, and almost necessary mantling over their hanging bed.  

“Sorry, just a minute, sorry.”  I climbed 10 more feet, fixed the rope for Libby and headed up a series of ledges until I ran out of rope.  

After wall hands, tingly and swollen.  

My stomach flopped again, this time with a loud thud.  

Libby arrived.  

“Can you lower me?!”

“You can’t wait until Thanksgiving ledge?”  Libby Sauter honestly inquired.

“Nope.”  I said flatly. 

I had to poop. Yup.  Poop.  

I didn’t have a proper disposal bag.  I certainly wasn’t leaving it on a ledge for those poor guys to climb into it on their breakfast pitch.  I was scared to Anasazi Shot-put it (shit on a rock and throw it) because they were below me.  
I had to take it with me.  


Well, I removed my last snack (a peanut butter/nutella sandwich) from the flimsy produce bag that contained it.  While I made my hurried deposit, Libby cut her small gatorade bottle up for me to stuff the poop bag into.  

If thats not fu&8ing teamwork!!!!!!

I then circumferentially wrapped the bottle with athletic tape, clipped it to my harness and finished two pitches to Thanksgiving ledge.

Lingering wafts with the occasional chimney move reminded me of the extra package clipped to the back of my harness.  I traversed across the Thanksgiving Ledge, jammed my way up the last 5.10 crack, fixed the line for the amazing lady I had been tied to for nearly a day and scurried up the final slabs.  
First female team to drink two King Cobras on the bridge--- yea, right!

Libby followed suit, unfixed the line and scrambled to meet me at the top of El Capitan for the second time in one day.  

Both of us weary but happy in the cool stillness of the night.

We had just become the first females to climb two routes on El Capitan in under 24 hours. (21:17)

The poop definitely cost us a little time.