Saved Sandstone Festival

This past weekend the Minnesota Climbers Association hosted the "Saved Sandstone Festival" in Sandstone, MN.  In celebration of the acquisition of the Johnson land that lies across the Kettle River from Robinson park and holds some of the best boulders in the state, climbers from around the country came together to raise money for the organization that put so much effort into making that acquisition happen.  The weekend was full of sends, prizes were given out, pizza and beer were consumed, and most importantly of all the Minnesota climbing community came together to support what matters most to them.  I had a great time climbing a few boulders and seeing everyone get together.  Here are a few photos of the weekend, I hope you enjoy them!  You can also check them out on Flickr I should be adding a few more to that album over the next week.

The Kettle River and the River Boulder

Henry relaxing by the river.

Nic O. showing everyone how it's done on "The Best V5 in MN"

Caius cruising up the Tengo stand start.

The City of Sandstone water tower

Tyler H. making his way up a wall in Robinson Park.

Bryan and Sean of the MCA hand out raffle prizes

The Railroad Bridge over the Kettle River.

Summer Road Trip - Part 3: Longs Peak

My alarm went off early the morning of Tuesday, July 5th.  I sprung awake, not at all drowsy as I instantly remembered what the day had in store, a 5 mile hike, climbing over 3000 vertical feet, carrying a backpack full of camping and camera gear.  This is most likely a mundane task to the experienced backpacker, but I anot an experienced backpacker.  I packed up my sleeping bag, poured myself a quick bowl of cereal, then departed for the Longs Peak trailhead.  Once at the parking lot I made some last minute preparations, placing my food, clothes and other gear into my pack.  A quick chat with the Park Ranger and I was off up the trail.  As I made my way through the pine forests that surround the lower parts of the trail, I passed plenty of other people getting out to hike that morning.  The trail zigzagged its way higher and higher. Along the way I passed over streams, under trees, and stopped to take photographs whenever I came upon an inspirational scene. 

Alpine Brook coming down from Longs Peak

As I trekked on and continued to gain elevation the weight of my pack began to grow on me.  I kept my legs moving, trying to stop as little as possible.  When I reached the fork in the trail from which one path would lead me to the Boulder Field and the other to Chasm Lake, I stopped to have a granola bar and a rest. By this time I was well into the Alpine and the trees were especially sparse.  Small shrubs and alpine wildflowers were much more common.  Looking up to the Southwest I could see the Diamond and below it the shimmering waters of Chasm Lake.  After continuing up a few switchbacks I was on the final stretch toward the Boulder Field.  At this point the rocks along the trail began to grow more numerous, and eventually the trail was consumed and I began to follow the cairns that marked the rest of the way.  As I walked into the aptly name Boulder Field, I was surrounded by rock.  To my left was Mount Lady Washington and to my right, Storms Peak.  The crumbling summits of these two lesser peaks were dwarfed by Longs Peak which rose straight ahead of me.  


Alpine Brook, higher up the mountain.

Longs Peak and Chasm Lake

Exhausted from the hike, I slowly assembled my tent within a wall of stones that had been piled by the park rangers to protect campers from the elements.  After taking a rest inside my tent and eating a quick lunch I threw my camera in my bag and went to explore my surroundings.  I started toward the ridge that lies between Longs Peak and Mount Lady Washington, hoping to get a good view of Chasm Lake from atop the ridge.  After tooling around up on the ridge for a bit I made my way back toward my tent.  There was a pair of climbers making camp near me and I stopped to chat with them for a bit, and soon resigned to my tent for the day to rest up for the mornings’ ascent. 

Camp set up in the Boulder Field

My alarm went off at 5:10 AM on Wednesday morning. As I packed up my water, food, camera and other supplies for the ascent I could hear other hikers making their way past my tent.  After a quick breakfast and prepping some water for the descent, I started up toward the Keyhole.  More cairns led the way as I hopped from boulder to boulder and upon reaching the Keyhole vast mountainous landscapes could be seen laying on the other side of the ridge.  To the left, the path through  “the Ledges” was marked with yellow and red bull's-eyes.  After a short rest with some fellow hikers to take in the views from the Keyhole, I bound ahead along the Ledges.  The path here climbs up a little before dropping down, and was a nice respite before what in my opinion was the worst part of the climb, "the Trough."


Sunset at the Boulder Field

Climbing the Trough was an effort in both willpower and endurance.  I was making good time and didn't want to slow down, so I kept my legs pumping.  Up and up the rocks I went as bits of gravel were kicked from my feet down the side of the mountain.  Partway up the Trough I met the two mountaineers that I had met the previous night at the Boulder Field.  After chatting about how our climbs were going we started moving again with myself leading the way.  They had insisted that I was faster and should go ahead, and wanting to live up to their expectations, I chugged ahead as quickly as possible.  At times I had to use all four of my limbs and near the end of the Trough got to do what was likely an unnecessary mantle.  At the top of the Trough I stopped to catch my breath and take some photographs, and then I was off onto "the Narrows." 

Looking down The Trough


The Narrows was definitely the most exposed part of the climb.  To my right the mountain side dropped steeply, and a misstep here could be fatal.  However, the trail was rather flat and my psych was high so I rapidly made my way to the bottom of "the Home Stretch."


The Home Stretch was much steeper than the Trough and at times I had to scramble on my hands and feet on the way up.  As I got nearer to my goal my heart started to race.  I pulled myself onto the summit of Longs Peak, the sun shinning in my face as I did so.  Finally, I had made it to the top of Longs Peak!  Looking over the eastern edge of the summit I could see Chasm Lake below and the foothills of the Front Range. 


Looking over the edge of the summit with Chasm Lake below and the foothills of the front range ahead.


I ate my lunch on what felt like the top of the world.  After signing the summit book and taking some more photographs I started back down the mountain smiling from ear-to-ear.  Summitting Longs Peak was truly one of the most amazing experiences in my life.  While it was physically challenging, the beautiful surroundings of Rocky Mountain National Park kept me inspired to keep going.  I hope this is only the first of many 14'ers to come!

Summer Road Trip 2014

I just returned from a great road trip.  I was able to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and Rock Mountain National Park.  I saw many beautiful landscapes, hiked miles of trails, climbed my first 14er(Longs Peak), did some bouldering in Chaos Canyon, and met Tommy Caldwell!  I have a lot of pictures to go through and am hoping to create some gorgeous images to share.  I plan to have a write up of the first part of the trip published in the next few days, stay tuned!

4th of July Weekend - Part1: Barn Bluff

The 4th of July Holiday weekend was a busy time for me!  Now that I've finally got some photos edited I thought it was about time to share some of the fun that was had!

Starting Friday morning I met up with Nick, Wei, and Madeline to drive down to Red Wing, Minnesota to do some sport climbing at Barn Bluff.  Residing along the Mississippi River Valley an hours drive southeast of the Twin Cities, Barn Bluff is comprised of Oneota Dolomite, which offers many a crimpy hold for climbers to attempt to stick to.  This can be especially difficult in the summer months when the sun is beating down on the cliff face.  

Nick about to climb as Wei waits to belay

The day started with a warm-up on Looking For Lust(5.9).  I made my way slowly up this climb. The holds felt a little greasy, possibly sandy, and with each move I was unsure of where to place my feet.  But I stayed relaxed during the ascent and eventually made it to the top without taking a fall.

Nick making his way up!

From here we made our way around to the Cyclops Area.  Nick set up the draws on Work Ethic, and seeing him move up the route reminded me that I had tried this climb 3 years earlier during my first visit to Barn Bluff.  On my first go I fell a few times but eventually made it to the top.  I came back down for a rest and some water, then took a shot at Suicide Squeeze and managed to flash it!   

Brian, Wes and Madeline refueling.

After another rest period and a PB & J I was ready to give Work Ethic another shot.  I made it past the second draw and fell moving through the crux.  At this point I came down to the ground, determined to do the route from the bottom. I gave it another go (okay the two draws were still clipped, but who cares, right? :) This time I moved more confidently through the lower crux with some new beta which included a bump from one right-hand undercling to another slightly higher, before moving to the high left-hand crimp-rail.  Moving up the climb I came to another difficult spot with a right-hand gaston from which you have to move to a high left-hand pocket.  I sat there for what felt like several seconds.  It felt as though my right hand could slip from the gaston at any moment and my feet were not secure either.  But with my fellow climbers yelling encouragement at me from below, I knew I had to make it work.  I shifted the fingers of my right hand and managed to find a slightly more incut part of the hold and found a better left foot.  From this position I was able to step down on my foot, push with my right hand, and reach my left into the high pocket.  After this I moved my right hand up to a good jug and from there it was a cake walk.  The ascent may not have been in perfect style, but getting all the moves down in one go was still very gratifying, and I hope to make it up the wall more smoothly next time!

Ryan on Roof Burner

After clilmbing Work Ethic I was feeling pretty pumped. My climbing endurance is pretty poor considering I'm mostly a boulderer, but we battled on to attempt Living All Over Me.  This was probably my favorite route of the day.  There is some very cool movement in and coming out of the crux gaston move.  I managed to make it to the top hangdogging a few times along the way, but it's always good to have projects!

A Weekend at Governor Dodge State Park

This past weekend Henry and I made the drive down to Dodgeville, Wisconsin to experience the boulders of Governor Dodge State Park.   Our journey began Friday after work.  With the car packed full of crash pads and camping gear my furry companion and I set off South on US Highway 52. We were taking the scenic route through the rolling river valleys of Southeastern Minnesota and Northeast Iowa.  After about 5 hours of driving, getting thrown off coarse by google maps a time or two, and making the mandatory stop for a 6-pack of Spotted Cow, we had made it to our destination of Black Hawk Lake Recreation Area.  After setting up the tent, meeting some of my fellow Twin Cities Rock Climbing Meetup Members, and snapping some photos of the bright “Honey Moon,” Henry and I settled in for what I was hoping would be a good night’s rest.

Apparently 5 hours stuck in a car and a night sleeping in an unfamiliar place makes for a restless dog, so at 5:30am Saturday morning I finally succumbed to Henry’s whines and got up to bring him out for his morning ritual.  This early morning wakeup call granted me the opportunity to view the sunrise over Black Hawk Lake, which was a beautiful site indeed.


Sunrise over Black Hawk Lake

Once a few of my fellow climbers had been roused out of bed a few hours later by the sounds of the surrounding forests, we made for Governor Dodge State Park and the sandstone boulders we had come to conquer. 

Our destination for the first day was the high concentration of boulders at Group Camp B.  After bush-whacking through thorny brush we came upon the ridge of sandstone boulders which offered a myriad of holds to get your hands on.  After warming up on High Anxiety and Seperation Anxiety we started to work on Split Personality, a slightly overhanging, crimpy V5.

Kyle near the top of Separation Anxiety

 Warning, Beta spray ahead! 

After working out the body positions for the bottom section I was able to easily make it to the relatively decent right hand pocket.  The next hold is a small, sharp left hand side pull; if you’re able to hold on and bring the left foot up to one of the crimps below, a small hop to a fairly positive lip will finish up the bulk of the problem.

Here I am about to go for that sharp left-hand sidepull(Photo: Carl Siegler)

From here we made our way along the West Backbone Ridge sector of Group Camp B.  One problem that stood out for me along this side of the ridge was the V2 highball, Scarete.  Around my third attempt I made it past a tricky section of the boulder about 15 feet up, and was able to make it to the top out at 25 feet.  Being that high off the deck brought to me a level of focus I have not experienced previously in my climbing, in addition to an exhilarating rush of adrenaline.  Perhaps they were one and the same.

East Backbone Ridge came next.  This side includes the classic V5, Hangman, and its V7 extension, Highly Executed.  With some beta from MNCC climber, Brian, and some left over tick marks, I was able to pull out a flash of Hangman!

After a little more climbing our crew was growing weary, so we trekked back to our camp site where hot dogs were roasted over the fire, odd pies were baked in cast iron, beers were consumed, and deep discussions of childhood dreams were had.  The night was topped off with Angel Food cake for Paul’s “89th” birthday!

Sunday had rain in the forecast and our fate for the day was unclear, but luck was on our side and it turned out to be another beautiful day.  Our goal was the Godfather boulder in the Box Canyon Boulders area of Governor Dodge.  Going straight up the proud rear face of the boulder was its namesake problem, The Godfather.  Starting on jugs this problem moves upward on side pull crimps then into some pockets near the top, finishing on a good slopey horn at the lip, and a good jug edge about two feet over the top.  I managed to flash this classic problem as well, another high point of the trip!  We got on a few more problems on The Godfather boulder, one of which was Cosa Nostra (V4 PG-13).  Cosa Nostra starts on crimps as you make your way up to the slab avoiding the arête as you go.  Looking down and right shows a big potential fall off the edge of the boulder, but sending this problem was definitely worth the temporary anxiety.

Sean gingerly making his way up Cosa Nostra

When we were finished bouldering for the day we packed the crash pads into the cars and made our way to Eau Claire for a final meal at the fine Mexican restaurant, Tacos Juanita.  With our bellies full of Enchiladas, burritos, and margaritas we said our parting words, got in our respective cars and continued on to our homes in Minnesota.  It was truly a great weekend.  The weather was beautiful, the rock was solid and the company was superb.  I can’t wait for the next adventure!