65 Birthday Challenge Summary

Goal - 65 challenges in 65 days.
This is just a summary of the more significant of the challenges I did. The full calendar version was a bit hard to digest.

Red Rock Climbing Center
June 6th - day 1 of 65 -  65 routes in one hour 33 minutes.   Only 5.10s and 5.11s.  All on autobelays for an average of 1:26 per route.

June 8th - 65 chins with 65 pounds added in 65 minutes

HCRHorseshoe Canyon Ranch
June 27 - 9 routes   5.11a and 5.10c
June 28 - 18 routes
June 29 - 26 routes
June 30 - 12 routes
 Total - 65 unique routes in 4 days.  

July 28 - 650 chin ups in 89 sets in 90 minutes averaging about 7 chins/set

Sender One Climbing Gym
July 30 -  42 toprope flashes-  all >= 10a  - 12 x 5.11's - 1 x 11c - 6.5 hours
July 31 -  3 lead flashes, 3 tr flashes, 8 leads of previous tr, 9 tr repeats - 4.5 hours
Total - 65 total routes

Red Rock Climbing Center
Aug 3 - 65 V points 11 x V3, 7 x V4, 1 x V5 nothing less than V3.

Red Rock
Aug 7 - First day of my 65 pitches in 65 hours.   Temps ended up around 96 degrees when we finished.   We started at the Gallery and lead 5 laps each on 5.8, 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10b, and 5.10c.   I took a fall on one of the laps of the 10b.
Ready to start my final challenge
Natalie ready for 8 hours of dedicated belaying.   I love her!
After the 10c, the sun was creeping in on us so we raced to Hunter Thompson and got 5 laps each on two 5.8s and a 5.10a.     The sun hit full as we headed to the Black Corridor so we took a break for lunch to wait for the shade.   Then I did 5 laps each on a 5.9+ and two other 5.9's.   Total for the days work was 55 pitches lead on 11 different routes with a total vertical of a bit over 3,000 feet (more than half a mile).   After 8 and a half hours we were running low on water and my feet were cramping.  So, we decided to do my final 10 leads the next day.   
55 pitches in and done for the day.
Since I was not as familiar with the Red Rock routes as I was with HCR routes, my route selection ended up being much harder on my finger tips and feet.  The routes were longer, had multiple cruxes, and were more powerful and crimpy.  The result was very tender tips and cramping feet near the end of the day.

Aug 8 - Time to finish up the last challenge.   We decided to make it a family affair and brought Munchkin with us to the Black Corridor for my final 10 pitches.  hmmmmm.   The corridor was packed with top ropes hanging from most of the routes I had wanted to use.  So I started out on a 10a and found it was probably the longest route in the corridor and it finished in the sun (not good if you are trying to do laps on a day forecast to be over 100).   After one lap I decided to move to one of the open 5.9s.   Well, come to find out is was a sandbagged 5.9+ with sketchy bolting and multiple hard cruxes.   So, again after one lap I decided to move again!   Only one other 9 was available so we jumped on it.   After one lap I found out why it was free.  The guys on the route next to us said "We skipped that one since it is probably the hardest 5.9 ever and the first bolt is way too high".   Fortunately, they were finishing up on their 5.9 so I finally got on a route that was suitable for multiple laps.   With single laps on my first 3 routes I finally got on a route more suited to my throbbing fingers and desire to stay out of the sun, if possible.  Since we were winding down, Natalie also lead a lap on this one.   Munchkin kept trying to climb up the wall and actually was jumping in an attempt to get on a sloppy narrow ledge at the bottom that was way too tiny.
As I finished my 5th lap, the next route over became available (a 5.9+PG route) so I got in my final 2 laps and Natalie got one more lead in.   DONE!     Tally for day 2: 1 x 5.10a, 2 x 5.9+, 7 x 5.9 on 6 different routes.

Totals: 65 leads on 17 different routes for about 3,900 feet of climbing.
 5 x 5.10c,, 5 x 5.10b, 11 x 5.10a, 7 x 5.9+, 22 x 5.9, 15 x 5.8 s 

65th Birthday Challenge (Marathon)

I am posting this as a personal diary but others may find it interesting.  I plan on this being my last really hard birthday challenge so decided to make it unique.   My challenges have gotten to be quite hard as I have added on the years.

August 10th has been a problem for me when doing climbing challenges for my birthday.  Last year I had to split my challenge into two day between torrential rains at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR) in Jasper, Arkansas.    It is also very difficult to get enough accessible routes in Red Rock so I have always tried to go to HCR.     So, this year I have decided to do a unique challenge for me.  It was inspired by Hans Florine's 40 in 40 where he did 40 different challenges in the 40 days leading to his birthday.   My challenge was 65 different challenges in the 65 days leading up to my birthday.    Rules were developed as I went along but most of the challenges were physical and even though I did a lot of things like chin ups, I varied the method to try to make each challenge unique (run on sidewalk vs trail run, offset chins vs pull ups, etc).   Not all challenges were physical, however but they usually, but not always, involved something that was either difficult or time consuming.   Since we are also training for the 24 hours of Horseshoe Hell (24 HHH), what may seem like a relatively trivial challenge was paired up with some pretty hard training that didn't count toward my birthday challenge.  We also drove to Kansas City for Natalie's son's wedding so we had days with no challenges interspersed with days with multiples to make up for the missed days.

I have included my non-challenge workouts to put it all in perspective.   When I show supplementals it means a combination of TRX suspension exercises (knees to chest, butterflies, extensions), push-ups, chin-ups, and dumbbell work.   I include a few videos to give you some idea exactly what some of the exercises look like.

All birthday challenges are shown in red font to differentiate from our 24 HHH training and so I can easily keep count.

June 6th - day 1 of 65 -  65 routes at Red Rock Climbing Center (RRCC) in one hour 33 minutes.   Only 5.10s and 5.11s.  All on autobelays for an average of 1:26 per route.   ****
June 7th - 65 minute elliptical level 7
    1 hour easy bouldering at RRCC
June 8th - 65 chins with 65 pounds added in 65 minutes ****
    30 min elliptical
June 9 - 65 push ups in 3 minutes
    30 min elliptical
June 10 - 65 chin ups in 6.5 minutes - 65 touches on hangboard + 10 lbs
    4 hours climbing in Black Corridor 8 5.9s
June 11 - 65 knees to chest with hands and feet in TRX straps
    30 min elliptical - 1 hour limit bouldering at RRCC
June 12 - 1 hr limit bouldering at RRCC - 30 min elliptical - supplemental exercises
June 13 - 3 hrs Black Corridor - 5.10s
June 14 - 1 hr + RRCC autobelays -All 11's done   hardest twice
June 15 - drove 650 miles - the trip to Kansas took two days but I did at least 650 the first night.
    30 min elliptical - supplemental exercises
June 17 - 2+ hours at Ibex Climbing Gym in Kansas City
June 18 - 65 chins, 65 knee ups, 65 push ups
June 19 - 65 mountain climbers, 10 x 65 second planks
    1.5 hrs Monster Mountain Climbing Gym (MM)
June 20 - 6.5 kilometer [4 mile] run on sidewalk 34:32  (perfect weather compared to Vegas i.e. 70's)
June 21 - 65 chins in 6.5 minutes on I beam alternating sides
    Natalie's son Vinnie's wedding
June 22 - finished 65 games of online chess (10 minute per side) since day 1 of challenge
    45 minutes at MM
June 24 - 65 wins in online chess games since day 1 of challenge
June 25 - 65 laps on 30' wall at MM (probably 5.6) in 1:01.58 (under 65 seconds)  Average 57.5 sec/lap.  But before climbed 1 hour with  two very hard routes 5.10+, 5.11  ****
June 27 - 9 routes at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR)  5.11a and 5.10c
June 28 - 18 routes at HCR
June 29 - 26 routes at HCR
June 30 - 12 routes at HCR for a total of 65 unique routes in 4 days.  ----- 19 challenges complete ****
July 2 - 6.5 miles 54:24 8:22/mile - 65 knee ups laying down  
July 3 - 65 Narrow typewriters, 65 wide typewriters, 65 reverse grip chins,  65 chair triceps dips
July 5 - Short session at IBEX 10's 11's
July 6 - 65 squat thrusts, 65 crunches, 65 leg ups
    1 hour at MM  10's and 11's
July 8 - Driving back to Kansas - 65 grip sqeezes left hand (sets of 10), 65 squeezes right (sets of 20) Eye opening to see how much weaker my left hand is for this exercise.  ---------30 challenges complete
July 9 - 65 chins on So Ill Iron Palm hangboard big pinches, 65 air squats
    1 hr RRCC auto belay 30 routes all 11's - 30 min elliptical
July 10 - 65 TRX butterflies  from plank position, 65 TRX extensions from knees
    Hangboard - 14 sets (static hangs from various holds and adding and subtracting weight depending on the size of the holds (1 set = 7 sec hang with 3 sec rest x 7) - 30 min elliptical - Supplementals
July 11 - 65 lunges
    30 min elliptical
July 12 - 65 touches on campus board medium edge 
    Climb 7 x 5.7 at the Amusement Park in Red Rock
July 13 - 65 burpees - no jump
    45 min hard at RRCC - 30 min elliptical
July 14 - 65 offset chins left hand high, 65 right hand high - 65 leg scissors leg lifts -- 40 challenges complete
    30 min elliptical
July 15 - 65 TRX push ups, 65 ab wipers from hanging position   
    hang board - 13 set of dead hangs - 30 min elliptical
July 16 - 30 min elliptical
July 17 - 65 dips - not strong.   Lost a lot by ignoring these, 65 face down leg lifts 
    4.5 hour hike in RR easy
July 18 - 65 V points bouldering at RRCC  10 x V2, 9 x V3, 5 x V4 - no repeats (laps)  24 separate problems (2 extra V points so a total of 67),  65 Hangboard dead hangs- 13 sets 5 reps 7 on 3 off
    30 min elliptical, supplementals
July 19 - 4 mile hike Calico to Sweet Pain - resting HR = 44  Polar Own Zone = 49
July 20 - RRCC autobelay - 5 x hardest 5.11 + 1 x hardest 5.10+ = 5x11 + 10 = 65 no falls
     30 min elliptical
July 21 -  65 leg ups to the side from hang
    Campus - 40 minutes -5.5 mile hike/run RR vistors to Gallery - Supplementals
July 22 - 6500 meter row in 26:54 for an average of 2:04.5 for each 500 
July 23 - 1.5 hrs RRCC all 11's  v4, v5- **** - 30 min elliptical
July 24 - 65 sit ups consecutive -  65 sec side plank left  - 65 sec side plank right 
    Hangboard  - 9 sets instead of 13 - 30 min elliptical
July 25 - 4 hours at Panty Wall, J Wall - 8's and two hard 10s
July 26 - 650 Calories in 59:20 on elliptical
July 27 - 65 knees to chest crunches on back
    1.5 hrs RRCC all 9s, 10s, 11's no falls two new  v4s  ****  - 30 min elliptical
July 28 - 650 chin ups in 89 sets in 90 minutes averaging about 7 chins/set **** ----55 challenges done
July 29 - crane pose for 65 seconds  (knees on elbows handstand)
    30 min elliptical
July 30 - 6.5 hours climbing at Sender One climbing gym
   42 toprope flashes-  all >= 10a  - 12 x 5.11's - 1 x 11c
July 31 - 65 total routes at Sender One over two days, Belayed Natalie on 65 routes in two days ****
    3 lead flashes, 3 tr flashes, 8 leads of previous tr, 9 tr repeats - 4.5 hours
Aug 1 - 45 min elliptical
Aug 2 - 6.5 Km trail run - 7:10 last mile
    Campus board then System board 2 x 4 min sets of 30 sec small holds 30 sec big holds
    4.25 miles trail run/hike to 2nd pullout - 7:10 last mile
Aug 3 - 65 V points 11 x V3, 7 x V4, 1 x V5 nothing less than V3 (total was actually 66) 2 hours.
    45 min elliptical
Aug 4 - 65 TRX butterfly and extensions combined
    30 min elliptical - Supplementals
Aug 5 - 6.5 mile hike/trail run Red Rock visitors center to Sandstone
    30+ minutes campus board - we do campus board with feet on since we are old and weak.  But, by adding a 10 or 20 pound weight vest or using smaller rungs, we can adjust the resistance vs needing to be strong enough to campus without feet.    It is actually way more fun than hang boards, TRX, or weights.
      65 kisses with my wife ****
Aug 6 -  45 min elliptical
Aug 7 - First day of my 65 pitches in Red Rock in 65 hours.   Temps ended up around 96 degrees when we finished.   We started at the Gallery and lead 5 laps each on 5.8, 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10b, and 5.10c.   I took a fall on one of the laps of the 10b.
Ready to start my final challenge

Natalie ready for 8 hours of dedicated belaying.   I love her!
After the 10c, the sun was creeping in on us so we raced to Hunter Thompson and got 5 laps each on two 5.8s and a 5.10a.     The sun hit full as we headed to the Black Corridor so we took a break for lunch to wait for the shade.   Then I did 5 laps each on a 5.9+ and two other 5.9's.   Total for the days work was 55 pitches lead on 11 different routes with a total vertical of a bit over 3,000 feet (more than half a mile).   After 8 and a half hours we were running low on water and my feet were cramping.  So, we decided to do my final 10 leads the next day.   
55 pitches in and done for the day.
Since I was not as familiar with the Red Rock routes as I was with HCR routes, my route selection ended up being much harder on my finger tips and feet.  The routes were longer, had multiple cruxes, and were more powerful and crimpy.  The result was very tender tips and cramping feet near the end of the day.

Aug 8 - Time to finish up the last challenge.   We decided to make it a family affair and brought Munchkin with us to the Black Corridor for my final 10 pitches.  hmmmmm.   The corridor was packed with top ropes hanging from most of the routes I had wanted to use.  So I started out on a 10a and found it was probably the longest route in the corridor and it finished in the sun (not good if you are trying to do laps on a day forecast to be over 100).   After one lap I decided to move to one of the open 5.9s.   Well, come to find out is was a sandbagged 5.9+ with sketchy bolting and multiple hard cruxes.   So, again after one lap I decided to move again!   Only one other 9 was available so we jumped on it.   After one lap I found out why it was free.  The guys on the route next to us said "We skipped that one since it is probably the hardest 5.9 ever and the first bolt is way too high".   Fortunately, they were finishing up on their 5.9 so I finally got on a route that was suitable for multiple laps.   With single laps on my first 3 routes I finally got on a route more suited to my throbbing fingers and desire to stay out of the sun, if possible.  Since we were winding down, Natalie also lead a lap on this one.   Munchkin kept trying to climb up the wall and actually was jumping in an attempt to get on a sloppy narrow ledge at the bottom that was way too tiny.
As I finished my 5th lap, the next route over became available (a 5.9+PG route) so I got in my final 2 laps and Natalie got one more lead in.   DONE!     Tally for day 2: 1 x 5.10a, 2 x 5.9+, 7 x 5.9 on 6 different routes.

Red Rock pitch totals: 65 leads in Red Rock on 17 different routes for about 3,900 feet of climbing.
 5 x 5.10c,, 5 x 5.10b, 11 x 5.10a, 7 x 5.9+, 22 x 5.9, 15 x 5.8 s ****

So now that I am officially on Social Security and this is our final year to hit it hard at the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, I believe this will be my final difficult birthday challenge.  It was fun and often stressful but I am satisfied with the final results and am forever thankful for my beautiful wife who supported my 100% and sacrificed a lot of her time to help me get through this.   65 kisses wasn't enough to compensate.

2013 Horseshoe Hell - Doing the Double

36 Hours of What Were We Thinking

"36 Hours of What Were We Thinking" -That's what Natalie put on our shirts.   When Andy first announced the qualifications for doing the double was having done 100 routes the year before, I immediately wanted to try.  Natalie was a bit more skeptical but thought it was worth doing as a one-time challenge.   Once we accepted the challenge, we knew we would need to train harder than we had ever done before.   At 48 and 64 years old, Nat and I knew we would have to prepare way more carefully than our younger counterparts.   We did more cardio, more climbing and more planning than ever before and were constantly concerned with injury and illness.  Natalie got a bone spur in her shoulder early on and I tweaked my back mid summer.  But, we found the right mix to recover and keep focus.  But, this was unknown ground.  We knew from previous years that we could climb pretty hard for 24 hours without bonking too bad.  But, the key was never stopping.   We really feared the break between the 12 and the 24.  Would we be totally wasted?  Would we be stiff and sore?    Would we bonk at 10pm instead of the normal 2am?   Would we be able to get our gear and food stashed and would we be able to get decent nutrition during and after the 12?    Fear and paranoia ruled.  In the last few years we have tried to do a blog for our own history since after 8 years, the actual events in the comps sometimes get blurry.   Even though it is for our own chronicling, others may find it entertaining and may actually get some hints on how we approach the 24HHH.  Click on any picture to get the bigger size. 

We got three days at HCR the week before the comp to finalize some beta and toughen the tips.   We especially wanted to scope out some of the more obscure trad lines.   Nat almost broke her finger on Cracked Rib by not pulling her hand out when shooting for a high hold.  That event forced us to move to easy trad so we got a lot more beta than we had originally planned.   

12 Hours
Perfect weather and perfect forecast.   What a change from last year.  Our plan was to hit the 12 hard with our hardest routes and then try to get 100 routes in the 24 with quite a bit of trad thrown in with the outside chance of Natalie getting the most trad routes for women.    At the start I sprinted up the hill from the Pavilion.   It was soon apparent that there would not be a lot of competition for the routes on Prophesy.   We got to Learning to Fly with no others in sight.   From Prophesy to Ren and Stempy to Titanic, all went as planned.   Titanic was a bit crowded but we knew we could use Port Side to wait for other routes to open.  We had a small bump on the 10c on the backside but after that we were on track again.  Port Side was hard but we both got it with no drama.    After a stop for a 9+ and the 10b on Doomsday wall, we moved on to the North Forty.
This happened while pulling the rope on Doomsday three bolts up!  Fortunately it was after one lap so we were able to lead from the other end of the rope and not lose much time.

First stop was the corridor.  Jack Hole was not fun.  I blew the mantle and had to do a one arm press out.  Nat took two tries when she, like me, used the wrong foothold.  
Huge thanks to Liz Chrisman for the awesome shot of Nat on Jackhole.

 After Harry Potter, we made what may have been a mistake in route choice.  We did Season of the Storm and First Normal in full sun.  
It cooked us.  Time to look for shady routes.     Around this time we saw it was possible to hit my age for route count (64).  So, the combination of having already done 32 5.10s and 18 5.9s we went for easy to get as many routes in before the final gun.    It was nice to relax on 5.7s.
Jim Grace had a goPro on an extendable pole and got Nat running up some easy route with a look of relief on her face.

We hit the pavilion with our goals met and could relax for a bit.  Phase one complete.   
We determined to try to get a good meal and good nights sleep.  But, Andy volunteered to cut the line and get us each two hot dogs.  Score!   No resistance to that offer since the thought of making a nutritious dinner was not high on our list.    Back to the cabin to unwind.
Golden Oreos and a comfy couch.

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

We felt pretty good at the start of the 24.   The Climber's Pledge was awesome as ever. 

Corbin Brady was a savior by humping our packs and green smoothies up to our planned start.   When the gun went off, instead of our normal hump straight uphill to Prophesy, we got to run downhill briefly headed for Kindergarten Boulder.    We were pretty relaxed knowing that our initial plan was simply to climb easy routes as quickly as possible with some easy trad thrown in when needed to avoid lines.   
Notice the #6.   That boat anchor allowed us to safely run up some of the easy wide cracks.

We cleaned up area after area without ever getting on a 5.10.   It was a strange situation where we avoided what we normally were obsessing over, hard routes.  We noticed that climbing easier routes was not hurting our skin like the hard routes had the day before.   Time flew by as we ran up route after route.   

Land Beyond without doing the 5.10s was pretty chill.

Before we knew it, it was 10pm check-in and we already had 80 routes done.    

Night climbing had perfect weather and almost no waiting for routes.
A mysterious stranger was passing out peanut M&Ms to everyone.

We reached our goal of 100 routes at 2am so it was time to up the game.   I knew the women's record for most pitches climbed was either 130 or 133.  We had 8 hours to get 34 more routes in order to have a shot at the record.   We were getting low on available easy routes but still had quite a few trad routes on our list.  So trying get the most trad routes female was also possible.   These two goals were not really complimentary since trad takes longer but they at least allow you to climb if sport routes aren't available.   So, with a new mission, we focused on pushing hard to the end.  

Approaching the last hour it became obvious that our goal for the pitch record was slipping away due to lines and the fact that we had done so many of the easy/moderate routes.    I decided to stop climbing and let Nat run the last hour as fast as she could.   She quickly dispatched two trad lines and we moved up to the Perfect Hair/Action Hotdog area for a couple of quickies.   Lines on both!!  But, the long line for Perfect Hair was a group just waiting to get their last lap in for their final hour.  They all graciously allowed Nat to jump in front and scamper up two very quick laps.   The line for Action Hotdog was now gone so she ran up that too.  I then realized that we almost had a major screw up.   I hadn't climbed a route for this final hour.  I grabbed two quick laps and let Nat know that she needed two more pitches to get to 134.   The corridor beckoned.   She was not thrilled about doing any of those crimpy routes but settled on two trips up Around the Fur.   We probably could have gotten in one more lap on one of the harder routes but with 134 pitches in the bag, we headed down.   
Mission accomplished.

Well, it wasn't as bad as we had feared and it was in fact quite enjoyable.  The 12 proved to be tougher than the 24 but that is probably because we old folk don't have the power we used to.   
Clay Frisbie's legs were a bit the worse for wear.

Jeremy Collins was finally able to relax.

As the slip-n-slide was getting tested, the rains came.

Some were not deterred but the rain forced the award ceremony to the pavilion.

Most of the great pictures I used in this blog were from one of our favorite people, Lydia Ruth Freeman.

So, the finally tally was:

12 Hour - 64 pitches each.  12 5.10a, 8 5.10b, 10 5.10c, 2 5.10d, 18 5.9, 14 5.8 and under.
                 Natalie won overall women and Leather and Lace finished second team in Advanced.  We both climbed exactly one half mile.
24 Hour - Nat 134 pitches 40 of which were trad, me 126 pitches 36 of which were trad.  
                Natalie won most pitches women and most trad routes women and climbed over a mile.

Special thanks to the Johnson family and the big guy Andy Chasteen.  They made this amazing event possible.
Shout out to all the great sponsors.
Finally some special thanks to all the volunteers and especially the core group that worked tirelessly for the entire week headed by Daniel DeMoss.   Thanks to Nate Borchert especially since he helped us get our coolers to the North Forty and basically got us anything we needed to facilitate our part in helping run this great competition.  

My 64th Birthday Climbing Challenge 2013

This is a personal log of what I did for my 64th birthday challenge.   It is mainly for my own record so it may be a bit wordy and have a few more photos than some would want but I hope you enjoy.  It's my time to spray a little for the old guys.   You youngsters can climb 5.10 all day long but it is hard for us old guys.

Click on the pictures to see the full size.

I had big plans for my 64th birthday challenge.   My goal is always to try to make it a bit harder than the year before and we had already booked flights so we could climb in Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas.    Original plan was to try to climb 64 routes 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell style (2 laps per route) and limit the grade to 5.9 and harder.   Besides my wife, Natalie, Reed James and David Thompson had agreed to help support by cleaning routes after my laps and help with the belaying.   The weather looked iffy but we were optimistic.

Reed picked us up in Springfield Thursday evening and we could see that the weather was not cooperating.   The forecast was for rain for our entire weekend so the plan changed.   Now I had to just try to get in 64 routes between bouts of rain.   Fingers crossed, we decided to start the challenge one day early and maybe get everything done on Friday, even though it was a day before my birthday.   Friday morning brought rain.   We headed to the ranch and would try to make the best of it.   Since most of the ranch's routes were wet and the humidity was at 97-100% I decided to allow more than two laps but to limit my climbs to 5.10b and above, if possible.   So the rules were now:
All routes on lead
Nothing below 5.10b
6 laps allowed on 5.10c
4 laps allowed on 5.10b
infinite laps allowed on 5.10d
No whining

 Ready to start with my faithful belayer, and wife, Natalie.

Lap #1 - Learning to Fly 5.10c

I got a huge flash pump on the first lap dealing with a wet clipping hold at the anchors.

Oh, did I mention it was HOT and HUMID??

Nat used her Belaggles to help save her neck while belaying all day.

SWEATING and only the forth lap!!

Reed showed us his skillz on a 5.11c slab/roof problem right next to my route.

Reed takes a victory whip from the top!

Next up was Jihad at 5.10c

Nat took a break from belaying to do a lap on Jihad

With only two routes in the bag, my sweat was saturating my shoes.  It wasn't long before they were totally soaked and squishy.

By the time I got to Log, 5.10c, I was dripping.  Check out my shorts in this picture.  It had not rained.  My sweat was causing my belayer and photographers to dodge the drips that were raining down on them.  Pretty gross, I know.   But, the weather caused us to make hay while the sun was shining.
Then it rained!
The effects of the rain can be seen behind the crew.   Left to right are David Thompson, Natalie, Melissa Jones, and Reed James. 

 When the rain let up, most routes were running water.  But one route remained nice and dry.

Port Side 5.10d was next.  It was a real challenge at this point.

Reed took some laps to get the beta for the 24 hour comp.

Yeah Baby!!

Natalie gets her lap in with style.

David took a try too.

Torrential rain came again so we decided to bail and try to finish on my real birthday if the weather cooperated.

First day totals.
5.10b - 2
5.10c - 28
5.10d - 2
I had followed my rules and climbed on 7 different routes and was half way done with 32 leads in the bag.

The soaked support crew after day one.  THANKS GANG!

No respect.  This horse walked right in front of us and then turned and gave Reed the dirtiest look you can imagine!

On to Low Gap diner for an great dinner of pasta, chicken, and sweets.

The desert was to die for!!

The rain continued but we decided to figure out our strategy in the morning.  Meanwhile Reed had a great surprise for us.  BIG GUNS.

Birthday: more rain overnight and the forecast was for rain both today and Sunday when we had to leave.  It was going to be a different kind of challenge to get this done - plan B, plan C, .... plan Z.  I will climb 64 routes.

The routes that were dry after the rain yesterday were now wet.  I adjusted the rules to allow me to finish before the next rain arrived.   I would allow 10 laps on 5.10c and 8 laps on 5.10b and unlimited on 5.10d.   This would still put me over what I had done last year as far as grades and lap count.  We headed back to where we left off on Friday with hopes of finishing the laps on Titanic and adding a few more on some I had already done.    Jihad, Learning to Fly, and Log were running water at the crux or at the top so we worked on Titanic and a 5.10b on Doomsday Wall.   We were on our own on Saturday so not many pictures.  Most of the laps were on things started the day before, Port Side, Tyler's BDay, TNC Forever and Cracked Rib.

Stick clipping was part of the process.

This one was a requests from my wife.

After a bloody kneebar on my first lap of The Apophis Crater, I fashioned a makeshift knee pad but ended up doing the crux a different way and didn't need it.   

So stylish.   This may catch on in Boulder!

We were out of climbable routes in this area so we headed to the North Forty in hopes of finding one of the 5.10b's or 5.10c's dry enough to climb.   More Better - waterfall, Count Chalkula - wet,  Crimp Scampi - wet up top but a last resort at this point.   Zeke's Didge Dance, 5.10b was dry but also was very powerful for me.   I sucked it up and made the big throw 8 times.  
 I now only needed 4 more laps.   So we headed to Land Beyond to the Tember Wall.   Great, dry routes.   I started up Tembertantrum 5.10b and above the second bolt, notice a wasp.  On closer inspection, there were a lot of wasps.  Their little hole-homes were between my face and the third bolt.   I took the whip and used the stick clip to retrieve the draws.   I started up Sendtember but couldn't remember the beta and backed off.   I was pretty toasted.   So, we moved around the corner to finish on Panty Moth Invasion, 5.10b.   On the second lap, my wet shoe slipped on the crux  just above the first bolt and I took to the air.   Natalie was attentive and kept be 2 feet off the deck.   It's not a challenge if it's easy!    I refocused and finished to job.
Ready to finish this thing!

Above the crux and relieved.


Reed fixed us some juicy, tender, awesome steaks for dinner and a bunch of great Arkansas climbers and spouses came over to help celebrate by drinking some alcohol with us.   I didn't get many pictures of the party though.  Sorry!
But I did get some of Reed, his beautiful girlfriend Melissa, and his sweet kids, Savanna and Reed Jr (Bubba)

Aren't they cute?

Chad Watkins and Bo Kipling (sorry I forgot the other name)  Two of these guys skinny dipped in the raging creek below Reed's house.   Only in Arkansas.  (out of our view thankfully)

Chris Rost and Michelle

Dave Thompson and Kylie


One more day to climb.  Of course the weather was the best of the weekend but it was going to be a shorter day since we had a plane to catch in Springfield later.  This was a day for Natalie to get to climb with the crew while I loafed around like a slug and took pictures.    Port Side got schooled by Natalie, Reed, Chad Watkins and Bo Kipling.
Nat warms up on a 5.8

Warm up before Port Side

First Reed


Then Natali






Time to move onto hard trad.   Reed was itching to show me Tattooed Lady Direct, a 5.11a trad route.

Crack master prepping.
Floating the first crux.  

Nails the dyno even with wet foot holds.

Chad walked it so fast I could get in position for good pictures.

I was a bit tired to lead but was excited to get on a top rope.
I had to hang at the first crux fist jam.

Another hang at the real crux then I at least got to the top. 

Beta for Nat, who is really getting the hang of hand jamming.

When you have a choice to jam or layback what would Natalie do?

Bo Kipling took a shot at a flash attempt after Chad devilishly pulled the top rope down.  Valiant effort with a whip on a green alien.

And then the rains came AGAIN.  We had enough and were ready to head to the airport.

I can't thank Reed James enough for all his transportation, hospitality, logistics.  You name it, he had it covered in spades and was always cheerful and helpful in every way.    Thanks again buddy.   Also big thanks to Melissa for her invaluable help and for David Thompson for aiding with the climbing on Friday.   Finally, no words can describe my thanks to my wife Natalie that makes all this possible by sacrificing her climbing so I can reach my goal.   Thanks love.

 The final tally in the order they were climbed each day:
1Learning to Fly5.10c4TNC Forever5.10b6
2Jihad5.10c6Tyler's BDay5.10c4
3Log5.10c6Cracked Rib5.10c4
4Tyler's BDay5.10c6Port Side5.10d2
5Port Side5.10d2The Apophis Crater5.10b4
6Cracked Rib5.10c6Zeke's Didge Dance5.10b8
7TNC Forever5.10b2Panty Moth Invasion5.10b4

Comparing my 63rd challenge to my 64th

2012 Year in Review

Like 2011, it's time to chronicle my life in 2012.  This is more for me and my family but some may find it of interest.   In my old age I forget when things happen and this helps me keep the events in some sort of logical order.  If you follow my facebook page, you have probably seen most, if not all, of these pictures but this puts them together for ME.      I thought 2011 would be a tough year to beat but 2012 had some moments that were definitely life changing

Paul Robinson and Alex Kahn arrived late in 2011 and stayed for a while as 2012 got under way.   They are excellent house guests and we are really looking forward to their visit this year.

Yes, I can spot V15!  Paul later sent this V15 (Meadowlark Lemon) while Nat and I were off climbing Dark Shadows.   We saw the prep but not the finish.

Paul working a yet to be completed project on their last day.  

2012 was the year for Natalie to step up her game.  She lead Dark Shadows, Armatron, Black Magic, and broke into leading 5.11 sport clean.

Nat leading on Dark Shadows

Nat on the incredible varnished slots of Armatron

Nat's first 5.11 clean lead!!! 

Sending the sweet huecoes in the Black Corridor

Following the scary Black Dagger

Ken Danielson made a quick visit and we were surprised by a freak snow storm while hiking into Ice Box Canyon.   Within minutes, we went from clear to snowball fighting.

 Nat's sister and her family made a brief visit to paradise in the spring.

The Fogel's experience Icebox Canyon

We almost lost our precious Kappy to a torsion of the stomach.   It was touch and go for a while but he has come back strong. 

Who knew he was pink with a lot more spots??

Arkansas represented for Cole Fennel's bachelor party.  Reed came in a bit early and had to leave early so we braved the cold and got in a route. 

Reed styling on Black Magic

Rockin the limo at the bachelor party 

Betting, and losing, on my first horse race

Cole and Andrew Blann on Epinephrine while Andrew Childs and I climb Sour Mash.

The best hike in Red Rock, Bridge Mountain

You can't get much higher than this in Red Rock.  Top of Bridge Mountain.

 Tyler came to Vegas for his birthday and we headed to San Diego

On the beach near La Jolla with sea lions in the background
 On the aircraft carrier

The amazing Lego Land

Tyler kicking our asses in the super fast go carts

Then the very best part of 2012!!!   I married Natalie Neal!
Thanks to Karen Whalen for the Red Rock shots

Fred and Michelle Onsaga were our witnesses and enjoyed to festive mood.

Our great photographer and friend, Karen Whelan,  that took all our Red Rock pre-wedding pictures.   We followed her adventures as she made the trek to Everest basecamp!  

Karen was inspiring to push beyond normal limits to reach her goal.   

THEN, our house got flooded!!  The bottom floor had about 2 inches of water and we had a week of fans and dehumidifiers running 24 hours a day.   The good part is that we got new tile floors and much nicer, taller base boards.
Standing water in the kitchen
Installing new tile.

New baseboards and floor with the walls getting ready for new paint.

July brought Ashley and her boyfriend Brian for a birthday visit.   
The cute couple in the Black Corridor

Ashley having no problems on this 100+ foot climb in Pine Creek Canyon.

Brian made it look easy.
On the belay ledge before the happy couple got to do their first rappel

Ashley's birthday present, Gordon Ramsay's Steak House.

Near the end of the dinner, my plate spontaneously exploded!!  So, the entire feast was comped!!!!   The best food I have ever eaten, btw.

For my 63rd birthday I lead 63 5.10 pitches in HCR allowing 5 laps for 5.10a and 10 laps for anything harder.   I ended up with 20x5.10a, 20x5.10b, 20x5.10c, and 3x5.10d (computer crash caused a loss of the original hi-res so I pulled these off my other blog)
Three laps on Crimp Scampi when I had already done over 45 pitches.

Huge thanks to Natalie who gave up her day of climbing to belay me.

Next day Nat got to onsight one of the best routes in Arkansas, Dumpster Diver 5.10b

A view of Dumpster Diver from below.

Most of the summer was spent training for.....

Nat showing how Leather and Lace rock. 

I let them have their way with my haircut
I now always put my age on my head to elicit sympathy from the youngsters.  It doesn't seem to work.

Maura and Jon get in the spirit!

Jeremy and Nate admiring our coordinated outfits.

Maura won Intermediate Women

Nat won Advanced Women

Nat and I earned our 100 route T-Shirt

One really fun thing that happened at the 24 this year.   I was the subject of a video project by Chelsey Rodgers.  Here is a link to it:
Thanks Chelsey.  You did great work considering the subject matter ;)

Natalie had an odd request for her birthday.  
1000 foot, 11 pitches with no retreat after pitch two with the 5.10 crux three pitches from the top.   

Technical and exposed.

Nat on the sea of rock leading to the crux of Black Orpheus

The hardest 5.6 pitch you will ever climb.

 Next day we hit the hot springs for the first time.

Matt and Danny Zemler showed up for a brief stop with Brent Smitheren
Brent gopro'ed most of the climbing

The Zemler boys

One of the fun highlights of the fall was Joe and Brandy's wedding.   Six teams of two climbed three different multi-pitch routes to join up on Solar Slab ledge for the wedding.
Climbers arriving from different routes

The wedding ceremony high up on Solar Slab wall

Dave and Callie Vaughn showed up for adventures that always push my limits.  This trip's intimidating climb as Levitation 29, a 7 pitch 5.11c route

Dave lead every pitch with style and I was able to get everything clean except for the hardest 5 feet of the route.    Fun to follow routes that are beyond your ability to lead clean. 

 Top of Levitation 29

On Black Orpheus, I lost my phone hiking down the endless slabs in the dark.  The next day, another climber saw something shiny in a crack and FOUND MY PHONE.   Reward = lodging at casa Dower.  Zach and Cole hit us near the end of the year for Thanksgiving and we had some fun cragging together.

Cole on The Gambler

Zach on Hunter Thompson Dome

Christmas in Kansas City
Big get together at the Reuters.  It was nice to have Tyler mix in with the Reuter clan.

Nat with Tony and Vinnie and her mom and dad.

Ashley, Brian, Tyler, Nat and I had an early Xmas before Ashley and Brian headed to Colorado

Nice to visit Tyler and Sam.

As the year came to an end, Erin Shaw and Alan Burgess moved to town.   I think we will be doing a lot of climbing with this dynamic duo.  And believe it or not, he is a year older than I am but his climbing resume certainly puts anything I have done to shame.  Quite the character.
Erin, Alan and me cragging at Hunter Thompson

We finished up the year with a small gathering of locals and visitors for New Years

Typical casa Dower get together.  Colorado, California, Arizona and Las Vegas represented.

Another great year in Vegas.  

I got married.   
I got over 100 routes again in 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell.
Shared the adventure of climbing Black Orpheus with my new wife.
I got up Levitation 29. 
Many new friends made and exciting new places visited.

Life is good.

63rd Birthday Challenge

Each year I try to do a challenging birthday challenge.    I started this when I was 58 and like the 24 hours of Horseshoe Hell, I have learned a lot about what is possible and have tried to up the challenge each year.  The following is more for my own records (I am getting old and the memory isn’t what it used to be) but some may find it interesting.
Past Challenges by age:
58 – 10 x 5.8 in the dark at HCR
59 – 59 leads of routes at HCR but multiple laps were allowed
60 – lead 60 different routes at HCR with nothing less than a 5.7
61 – 61 routes 5.10 or above in a gym with laps allowed – some lead, some toprope (in Phoenix)
62 – 19.3 mile hike/run up Mount Charlest on in 5hrs 1 min followed by 62 toprope laps in the gym on 5.10 and 5.11 with up to 10 laps on each  (in Las Vegas)

This year:
63 – goal to lead 63 pitches of 5.10.     On my 60th birthday I had a crew following and cleaning anchors but this time I only had my devoted wife as my belay slave.   Therefore, doing laps made it so that the time cleaning the anchors would not be as much of a factor.  
                Every lap would be leading.  If I fell, pull the rope and start again.
                Five laps max on 5.10a
                Ten laps max on anything harder than 5.10a
                No whining

An added challenge was to do most of the laps on routes Nat and I had just on-sighted the day before.   So, first up was a 5.10c, Sonrisa Loco, on the Kindergarten Boulder.  
Ready to start with my official Cole Fennel stag party t-shirt!
Overhanging with sharp holds, it was much like the routes on Magoo Rock.   All went fine until lap number 4.   WHIPPER!    Hmmmm.   Maybe I bit off more than I could chew.   The fall calmed me down and got me to focus more on the task at hand.   This was going to be a challenge!    I finished my 10 laps and moved on to the Land Beyond area.
Ten laps on Tembertantrum (5.10b), Five on  Sendtember 5.10a, and finally a tough 10 on Dog Crap Broken Fingers (5.10c).   
Dog Crap Broken Fingers - pretty burly
Dog Crap Broken Fingers 5.10c
Reed sending one of his three 5.11's (Brat Hole) for the day including Taliban Soup!
At this point Nat jumped on a toprope on a 5.11 that Reed had just lead and flashed it!   
Nat tr flashing a 5.11 (Brat Holes) that she lead the next day.
So, stupidly, I thought I would try to lead it and add that to my challenge.   FAIL (we both did red-point it the next day).  
Optimistic start to the Brat Holes but reality set in and I went back to my original plan.
So, I moved around the corner I did five on Panty Moth Invasion (5.10b).   It was tough so I kept it to only five laps.   
Keeping track. It's easy to loose count after three or four laps.
Panty Moth Invasion
Panty Moth Invasion
My dedicated belayer and wife, Natalie
Big thanks to Reed "Bubba" James for shooting all the great shots in The Land Beyond

 With the new routes behind me, I ran up five laps on Sons of the Soil (5.10a) to get ready for the real test.
CRIMP SCAMPI (5.10d) was to be my real challenge.  I planned on trying to get three laps in.   Laps one and two were number 46 and 47 in my challenge and they were tough.    I took a break before the last one and got in five laps on the neighboring Private Property (5.10a).   That is a pretty sustained and strenuous route so it might have been a mistake to not do all my laps on Crimp at once.  
Mid crux on Private Property
But, I got back on for number 53 on Crimp and barely got through the crux.   
Last lap on Crimp Scampi
Crux of Crimp Scampi
Lap 53 and I'm running out of steam but reach through to the jug
Thank God forearm rest after the crux
I knew the next 10 laps would be easier and realized that I could achieve my goal
Nat gave me a break and took a lap on Crimp
My superwoman wife.
Nat demonstrates the short-girl beta on Crimp
Her method is much better technique than my tall-man stretch method.
Soooo smooth

With the hard stuff out of the way, I did 5 laps on Towely (5.10b – but not the way I do it) and was thinking I had to now do either Season of the Storm or More Better.  But, I forgot all about Count Chalkula (5.10a).   I was happy to use this as my final set since the crux, though hard, was short.    The last lap was uneventful and the Ozark Café beckoned.
Last lap on my last route. Count Chalkula was my 63rd
DONE! I'm getting too old for this! Thanks again Nat
Guess who was belaying!

Final stats:
5.10a – 20 laps
5.10b – 20 laps
5.10c – 20 laps
5.10d – 3 laps
Time: 9 hours 30 minutes
Special thanks to Nat for giving up her climbing day for me (she did climb 3 routes including a lead of Crimp Scampi and a toprope flash of Brat Holes 5.11a) and to Reed James and his son Reed “Bubba” James for taking pictures.

2011 Year in Review

I am writing this to chronicle my first calendar year in Las Vegas, January through December.   It has been a eventful year for me and this will help me keep track of what happened when.   Like my annual birthday challenges, I want to make this an annual process i.e. review and chronicle each year.  I hope it doesn't come off as too much spraying but this is more for my personal reflections and a record for me and my friends and family than a normal trip report type of blog.  As such, it's all about me, my experiences, and my achievements!!!

Sport Climbing
January brought my sport climbing mentors, Nick Martino, Jenn Fleming, Adam Peters and Caryn Courcier.   I learned more about sport climbing during their stays than all the years before.   It culminated with this:
I later returned and on my third trip to finally sent Yaak Crack clean (5.11c) and was able to send it two more times after that.   I was also treated to Adam and Caryn sending "The Gift", 5.12d on consecutive burns.
Caryn on The Gift.
 Adam on The Gift

I got to watch Nick working and sending 5.13.
Nick on "Beyond Reason" 5.13b

 Nick gave me a full session as a belay slave and taught me how to work a route (I was doing it all wrong).  I was also able to cleanly lead "Marshall Amp" 5.11b, after first being a weenie and top roping it clean.
Nick on Marshall Amp

Jason Roy and Josh McKinnon make a quick visit just to try Yaak Crack (or maybe to get out of the crappy Arkansas winter)

Cochise Stronghold
January also brought my first trip to Cochise Stronghold to climb "Ewephoria"
Nat on the hike to the smooth granite of Cochise Stronghold.
Joe on the final pitch of Ewephoria

I also got to experience hiking in the Superstition Mountains with Natalie.

Whale watching.
Another new experience was to see west coast whales and dolphins and to see San Diego for the first time.

Adventures with Dave (part 1)
When Dave visits, I get to climb some awesome routes that are beyond my current pay grade!   I will lead a pitch here and there but generally, Dave acts as my own personal rope gun on his visits.

Adventure Punks (Adventure Yuppies for us since we skipped the 10d offwidth final pitch)  Below a visiting Brit climbs the awesome hand crack.

Challenger - 5.10d roof.

Texas Hold'em - we stopped before the 5.11c pitch

Rainbow Wall - we only did the first pitch - 5.11c/d  A party of 3 jumped right in and came up to the first pitch belay and actually asked to pass so we bailed.

 Plan B became Nightcrawler - 5.10c (amazing stemming)

Yosemite, Sequoia, San Francisco, San Diego
May brought a long awaited trip to Yosemite and Sequoia NP.
Natalie the tree hugger.

Our first views in Yosemite were pretty wet but amazing.
When the weather cleared we got a tastes of the slick Yosemite granite.  First on El Cap.
Then by Yosemite Falls
The hike up to the top of Yosemite Falls was also unforgettable.

Another new experience on the trip was ocean kayaking into sea caves in San Diego

Maura moves in.
One great addition to my house this year was Maura!!!  She loved Kappy and was my built in dog-sitter when I wanted to take a trip.

Maura and I made a day trip to Crawdad Creek in Veyo Utah in order to do some sport cragging.  The result was my first and only 5.12 redpoint.   Admittedly soft for the grade with a short sequence boulder problem made easier with a tall man's knee bar, it was still listed as a 5.12a

Nat's boys visit.
Natalie's boys visited her in Scottsdale and made a side trip to Red Rock to experience some multi-pitch climbing.  We took them up Johnny Vegas to give them something to remember.
We also had to show them sport climbing so we brought them to the Black Corridor with Kappy.

HCR Via Ferrata
I took a quick trip around the 4th of July back to Kansas City to visit the kids and to see Ashley's new house.  

We also got a chance to get some previewing in at HCR and to experience our first via ferrata.  You climb on rock, rebar rungs, wire bridges, and into caves while attached to a cable next to the route with special leashes.

Ashley's Birthday Trip
One of the best times of the summer was when Ashley came out for her birthday.  We both got to go board surfing in San Diego.  What a great thing to share with her.
We also did some hiking and celebrating.

Mt Charleston (round 1)
Our hike took a bit over 8 hours.   It convinced me that this hike would be a worthy challenge for my birthday.

Birthday Challenge
Next stop: 62 !!   It was time for my annual birthday challenge.  This year it was the full 18+ mile round trip hike/run of Mt Charleston (the highest point in southern Nevada) followed by 62 laps on routes 5.10 or harder at the Red Rock Climbing Center.
On top of Mt Charleson.   Time for up the south trail and down the north: 5 hrs 1 minute 6 seconds.   
I was pretty wasted at the end but knew there was still the climbing session.  Thankfully, it took about and hour to get to the gym so I had some time to recover a bit.  The rules were that I could do up to 5 laps on any 5.10 or 5.11 with the extra 2 laps needed had to be on 5.11.  There were a limited number of routes of this grade in the gym so I had to make do.
One of my repeats on a 5.11.   Just when I thought I was going to cruise, I fell on my 61st route, a 5.11.  I tried again and again fell.  I tried another 5.11 and again failed.  Finally, I picked the easiest one and got in my last two climbs.

Bridge Mountain
It was full on HOT summer time so part of the training was long hikes with Maura.  The best by far was Bridge Mountain, the highest point in Red Rock.   After a long boring hike on a road, you reach the trailhead.   A couple of miles of hiking get you to the overlook where you can finally see your goal.  Bridge Mountain has a huge natural bridge and an awesome, non-trivial scramble to the summit.   The best non-technical summit ever.

The 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell would be special since Maura, Nat, Kappy and I were going to make the road trip in Maura's van then Maura was going to team up with Humberto to experience 24HHH for the first time.  We went whole hog with hair cuts, costumes, arm wrestling, and a bit of ROCK CLIMBING.
The western contingent in the super van
Chin strap haircut
Getting the game hair right

Nat on Crimp Scampi

Crimp from above!  Hey, where did my hair go?

Natalie won first in Advanced Women, Maura won third in Intermediate Women, and I won the Social Security division (as if there was one).   Nat really stepped up her game this year with 95 routes - 35 5.10's, (2 10d, 6 10c, 13 10b, and 14 10a).  My results were 94 routes, 37 5.10's, 1 5.11, 34 5.9's.  Nat redpointed Cracked Rib during the comp and I redpointed Port Side.  Those sends were highlights for us both.   But my most memorable experience was a long, drawn-out arm wrestling match with Brent Perkins (the overall winner of the comp).  I didn't know who I was matched with until later but this old man was able to eek out the win.   I was wondering why so many people were going nuts in the audience.  Alas, the next round brought on the non-climbers and soon all the big footballer types rolled over the skinny climber guys.  Our little van of westerners came back with quite a haul from the swag table since they gave swag for haircuts (me), anyone that had done the 24 all 6 years (Nat and me), arm wresting (Nat got second female) and, of course, placing in your division (Nat and Maura).  

Time to slooowwww down and semi-relax for a bit.  As much as it would be nice to take advantage of the fitness from the 24 training, it was time to ease off a bit and recharge the batteries.  Maura moved back to San Francisco when we got back to Vegas (was it something I said?)  so I no longer had a live-in climbing partner.   But, then the high-light of the year came with Natalie moving from Phoenix to casa Dower (now casa Dower/Neal)  

Dave and Callie - round 2
The food chain, Kappy, Pente, Biner

Power Failure

Leading the scary first pitch of Unimpeachable Groping (long way to the first bolt).

Shut down on the off-width part of Out of Control (one hang)

Thanksgiving - we host 20 people, most of whom we don't know, for a great feast but also were able to treat Jim Davila (Nat's former Phoenix climbing partner) to his first multi-pitch trad climb, Birdland.

Jeremy finally visits.
Jeremy Collins, his wife Tricia, Rob O'Blennis and his wife Lori came in town for the Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon and a bit of climbing and Vegas fun at the beginning of December.   The weather didn't cooperate so big plans became short windows of opportunity.

Jer rope guns on Ying Yang - I hung but found out I need to work on my crack skills.

Great evening at "O" with Natalie, Jer, Trisha, Kurt Smith, and Elaina

Race night was cold but I ran 1:41.43 for the best time for anyone over 55 from Las Vegas.  8th for 60 and over male.  Averaged 7:46 per mile.  A bit disappointed in the time but considering my lack of training mileage I really can't complain.

Bridge Mountain round 2
It was not Nat-friendly weather but she was willing to do the Bridge Mountain hike even with cold and snow.  We didn't summit because of the ice but she got to see our hiking goal for the spring.

I got an early trip to KC for Christmas with the kids.

 And Ashley's boyfriend, Brian.

One really fun time was to get Ashley to go to Ibex and try climbing again.  This was the first time since she was about 10 and she was able to look good on 5.7's.

When I got back to Vegas, we got a short, pre-xmas visit from some of our favorites, Kurt, Ryan, and Maura.  Weather wasn't great but we got in some sport climbing, some multi-pitch, and some gift exchanging.

T-shirt weather at The Gallery

Early X-mas

Maura and Nat teamed up for Rawlpindi and Kurt and I teamed with Ryan for his first muti-pitch trad climb, Birdland.

Nat and Maura on the left with Ryan leading Birdland on the right.

Nat steps up her game leading the runout Rawlpindi with Maura.

So, what more excitement could crop up as 2011 comes to an end?   I had done sport climbing with Nick, trad climbing with Dave and Jeremy.  all I needed was to add to my climbing repertoire with get some bouldering tips.   Not to disappoint, Paul Robinson and Alex arrive just as 2011 ended.  Kappy got to go on a session to Kraft Boulders.

On New Years Eve I got to witness the way boulders attack their projects.  Paul sent an existing project for a first ascent (estimated V11).  

Nice way to end the year.  Paul is staying at casa Dowre/Neal for most of January so I should be able to pick up a pointer or two.

There were many other climbs during the year, such as Crimson with Joe and again with Maura, Frogland with Nat, Group Therapy with Nat, Varnishing Point with Maura and Nat, Topless Twins with Nat, Purblind Pillar, 1st pitch of Plan F (5.10a trad),  and some tough on-sights of sport climbs at the Second Pullout - Burros Don't Gamble 5.10c, Burros Don't Fly 5.10b, Foe 5.11a, Nightmare on Crude Street 5.10d, The Runaway 5.10b, American Sportsman 5.10c, April Fools 5.10b

Athletic highlights for me for 2011:
  Yaak Crack (the Gallery) three times 5.11c
  Marshall Amp (Stratocaster wall) 5.11b
  Homeropolis (Crawdad Creek) 5.12a
  Mt Charleston loop (18+ miles) 5 hrs 1 min 6 seconds.
  62 top rope laps in the gym 5.10 or above 
     22 5.11's and 40 5.10's - 4 hrs 10 min - after Charleston 
  3.8 mile training run sub 7 minute miles.
  Camelback Mountain Cholla Side: 24:54
  24HHH - 14th in Advanced - 38 leads of 5.10a or greater
       Nat and I had the 8th team out of 30 Advanced Teams and 43 Intermediate Teams.

Time to bring on 2012.  It will be hard to top 2011.

Leather and Lace GESHIDO at 24HHH 2009

First, this blog is a personal record for me so it might be a bit long and maybe too detailed.   But, I had such a great time and wanted to be pretty thorough and cover a lot more than most want to read.   Sorry about that!  Also, for most of the weekend we were followed by a film crew that were making a short film about our adventure this year.  Dylan Welter and Austin Goldberg,  the videographers, were taking both still pictures and video quite a bit of the time so we forgot to take many of our own.   btw: Thanks Dylan and Austin and I can't wait to see the final product.   It is also hard to take pictures when you are belaying.  For the pictures we did get, click on them to see the full size version.

What is 24HHH?  
The 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is a climbing competition where teams of two climbers climb for 24 continuous hours.  Each climb must be a clean lead climb and to achieve bonus points, each team member must lead at least one climb each hour.   The event is divided into 3 divisions.  The Recreational division is for climbers that climb 5.9- and under.   The Intermediate division if for climbers that climb up to 5.10d.   The Advanced division is for the climbers that climb 5.11 and up.   It is an honor system as far as the division you enter since it would be totally unfair for someone who has climbed 5.12 to enter into the Intermediate division.  Likewise, a 5.10 climber would be "sandbagging" if they were to climb as a Recreational climber.  The event is held at the incredible Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas which features hundreds of sport and trad routes with grades from 5.4 to 5.14.

Our Team - Leather and Lace
My partner, Natalie Neal, and I had competed as a team for the last three years.  This was to be our final effort.    Our first year, the very first edition, we competed as a Recreational team and Natalie finished second in the female division.   Our hardest route that year was 5.8+ and we climbed 36 routes each.  The next year we moved up to Intermediate and again Natalie finished second in the female division.     We did a couple of 5.10's that year and climbed 60 routes each.  Last year we trained much harder and we finished first and second in Intermediate and Natalie again finished second in the female division.    We each did six 5.10s and exceeded our expectations by climbing 91 routes each.   When we finished we were pretty sure it was our last 24.  Natalie said that there was no way she could do any better.   I too thought we were close to maxing out.  But, with 91 routes, that magical mark of 100 routes was very close.    After our annual Red Rocks trip in March, we decided to give it one last go.  We wanted 100 routes.

Boring stuff about the Divisions but needing to be said.
Some people have asked if we were still going to be in the Intermediate division after winning in 2008.  Well, time to get this straight.  Advanced is defined two ways in the rules, once Andy put in the rules "For example, if you have onsighted 5.11a then you are an advanced climber. Do not register Intermediate."   That implies if you have on-sighted EVEN ONE 5.11, you should be Advanced.   In the registration form it defines Advanced as a "consistent" 5.11 leader.   So, Nat has never sent a 5.11 clean yet, even on top rope.   I have red pointed 4, all of which are 5.11a ( Newton County Mentality (many, many falls), Sonny Jim, Horseshoes and Handgrenades, and Horny Goatweed)   Before the new guidebook I had 2 onsights of 5.11a climbs, Pimpass Midgy Mullet and Cracked Rib.  But, those are now 5.10c routes so no longer qualify as Advanced routes.   I hated to have to lay that out there but I have not even one 5.11a onsight and my hardest send to date is also just a 5.11a.   I hope that satisfies any naysayers out there!    I wonder how many of the other 100 competitors in Intermediate can justify their entry into Intermediate?   They know if they were sandbagging and their friends do too.   (end of stupid stuff, now on to the fun stuff)

Leather and Lace is known for our motto GESHIDO and GSD.  These both stand for Get S__t Done.   We have had it on our shirts for the last two years.  Sorry for no picture but the front of our shirts this year had:
Leather and Lace
60 + 44 = 104% effort

The back had large letters:

The Buildup
Natalie and I were ready!!!  The training had been intense for most of the summer.  What is great about this competition is that it's not how hard you pull down as much as how long you can pull down hard.  We climbed lap after lap in the gyms, we climbed at HCR to try to wire our hardest climbs, we did cardio almost every day, we watched our diet, we planned our strategy, and we tapered the last week.    The final week we stressed about the rain forecast, whether we would catch a cold, if we would get some stupid injury or if we were over or under trained.  

The original plan was to HCR sometime on Thursday and get some final beta and maybe a route or two in.   But, Tuesday I got a call from Jeremy Collins.  He needed a ride since his partner, Tommy Caldwell (yes THE Tommy Caldwell) was getting in Wednesday afternoon.   Jer had already taken me up on my offer to let them crash at my cabin so this was a huge bonus.    Hmmmm, a chance to spend a day out watching the dream team prep for the comp.  Logistics were rearranged and Jer and I left on Wednesday.    Tommy got delayed.  He bought a van in Texas and was driving in from there but underestimated the drive time by a few hours.    This gave Jer and I the chance to check out the North 40 section of the ranch.  What a disaster.  Water was running down a huge percentage of the routes.   We were both quickly trying to figure out how to change our strategies to deal with the wet.   The whole game had changed.    But, the forecast was getting better.  Maybe things would dry out.

Later that evening, we spent a little time hanging out with the Patagonia crew at their cabin until Tommy showed up.   It was great to see Brittany Griffith again and to meet Kate Rutheford.     When Tommy showed up we crashed.

We headed to the East side early Thursday instead of heading to the Ozark Cafe with the Patagonia crew.   Jer wanted to get some alone time with Tommy to finalize some beta and familiarize him with the Arkansas sandstone.    I didn't even bring my shoes since this was their only time to  preview.  But, fortunately, I did bring my harness.    As luck would have it, Tommy forgot his so I lent him mine for the day.   The interesting thing is that we use the same harness, the BD Chaos (mine was given to me by BD on my Castle Valley trip).
Tommy putting on my harness for their first route in HCR.

The morning was spent finalizing their east side tick list.
Tommy on Maximus.

After the morning burn we went to Jasper for breakfast/lunch and some grocery shopping.   Jer and Tommy got into the Halloween spirit.

After a nap, it was time for the afternoon session on the west side.
Tommy flashing Cradle of the Deep, 5.12d and did a second lap.

And Roary Breaker 5.13a

Jeremy's wife Tricia, Jesse Gross and Natalie came in late that evening and brought pizza from the Ozark Cafe.    Jer, Tommy and I were up at the Patagonia cabin when they came in.   As soon as the group came up onto the porch, Tommy showed his class by coming straight over and introducing himself to Nat and Tricia.    We retired to the cabin and got to bed pretty early.

I whipped up some pancakes for the crew and looked forward to a nice quiet day.  Nat and I planned on getting some final trad beta and hanging some slings and biners on routes that didn't have anchors.   Jer and Tommy were in total rest mode.     We also had to make up our "Electric Juice" smoothies (thanks to Carisa's special 24hhh recipe), load our cooler with extra water and snacks and stash it on the North 40.   This year we also put some water and our larger trad gear in another stash at the other end of the cliff.
Lucas Marshall's unicorn by Jeremy.

Our driver (a necessary safety valve for the 5+ hour drive home) , Ryan, showed up in the afternoon to fill the last bed in our cabin.   He got to experience the famous Spelio Box in the barn.  It is a simulated cave where you enter one hole, climb up and down and around forever in a tunnel that is not much larger than your shoulders and come out another hole right next to the first one!
Ryan spelunking

After the great pasta dinner supplied by the ranch, we retired to the cabin.  There was a great "Big Smith" concert going on but our cabin was ALL BUSINESS.  We all chilled and went to bed early.
Nat chillin on the couch with Tommy.
Jer trying out his special experimental glove to try to keep his fingers protected on easier routes.   I never asked if he actually ended up using them.

Game Day  
The weather was PERFECT.   Most of the routes had dried out.  The temp was in the 70's and the humidity was low.  How did this happen?    My morning was busy!  I got up at 6:30 and loaded the rope bag and both Natalie's and my pack into the truck.  Ryan accompanied me as I made the final stash of our primary gear.  One of the rules (that is not always followed) is that you are supposed to be self-supporting.   Ryan grabbed Nat's pack out of the truck and as we started up the hill I realized it.   I had to take her pack too to be "legal".     We took it slow and dumped it all below Prophesy wall.    When I got back I made pancakes and omelets for everyone and before I knew it, it was time for the mandatory meeting.  I am a compulsive planner and list maker but the breakfast took way to long to make for 7 people since the griddle was small.  Here we were at the meeting and time was running out for prep work.    We had to borrow tape from Tommy since ours was now sitting at the top of the hill in the rope bag!!   But, as nervous as we were, the starting line was fun.
Tommy and the "Climbing Elvi" team

Brittany and Kate - rock angels

When the gun went off, Nat and I took off up the hill.   I was first to the trail but there was a line of people right on my heels.  Good thing we were almost running because when we reached our gear and claimed our first route, all the other routes around us were taken immediately.  Our first routes was pretty hard for us since we would not get a warm up.  But it was more important to get our hard routes in than to get a warm up.  Our first route was Learning to Fly (5.10c) followed by Dr Stupid (5.10a), Log (5.10b) and then Jihad (5.10b).   We had one more route we wanted in this area but it was occupied so we moved on the Titanic Boulder.   In this competition, waiting is death.  You need to find routes to climb and keep moving.  At Titanic we snagged Ship of Fools (5.10a), The Lookout (5.9+) and I grabbed Cracked Rib (5.10c).  Again the last route we wanted here was occupied (actually by the same party that had been on the 5.8 at Prophesy)  Time to move!  We had been successful on all our planned hard routes but were now two good 5.8's behind on our plan.

North Forty
Our final destination, the famous North Forty!!  We planned to spend the rest of the 24 here and this is where our stash of water and gear was.   Our first route was our hardest of the day, the five star Crimp Scampi (5.10d).   At this point we ran into Grant Brady, one of our friends from the KC area. He was a volunteer and was gracious enough to take some pictures.   So, these are the only pics we have of us actually CLIMBING in the 24.  THANKS GRANT!!!!

Nat cruising on her first lap of Crimp

My turn.
Finally we took some time to eat and catch up on our score sheet.

Me on Private Property

Nat on Leonid

Local Hebrew


Around this time Nat had took a fall on Controversy.   She stayed on way too long before taking the fall and got totally pumped.   It was gut check time.   But Nat stepped up and went back up and sent twice.   We were running around trying to find open routes and had to finally resort to doing trad routes.  We dug out the trad gear and did Groove Tube, Clown Suit and Circus Freaks.   We would resort to filling in with trad routes whenever we couldn't get an open route.   Two major routes on our list were running water, More Better and First Normal Form.   We would try to fit these in but they were lower priority now since they would be much harder and uncomfortable.

Nighttime did not slow us down.   In fact, the 10pm check-in messed us up.  We were about to do Jackhole but had to leave to check-in.  Jackhole was the only route left for us in the Corridor.  This would come back to haunt us later.   The night was uneventful.   One route blurred into another.    I would do two laps, Nat would do two laps.  Move on.

Finally, we arrived back at Jackhole with Brittany and Kate doing the route by us. I did my two laps and Nat stepped up.   She got half way through the tough mantle move and just got stuck.  She couldn't quite make those last few inches to get her center over her hand.   She took the fall.   Brittany was giving her beta for a different way but that beta was better suited for someone of Brittany's size.   Nat tried again and fell again.    One final try, using Brittany's beta was unsuccessful.  Nat was pretty upset.   She could see her goal slipping away.   We left our draws, did two quick trad routes in the area and headed east again looking for some sport routes to makeup time.  

Nat was now 4 laps behind me and I had just hit 100.   We ran up to the kiddy wall and I told Nat  " I won't climb any more routes until you catch up.   You need to do two laps on two more routes before I climb again." The Dirt Barbie team of Virginia and Annie were sitting in front of Tunnel Vision waiting to do their 9am route.   Since it was't 9 yet, they let Nat jump on.  She ran up, pulled the rope without untying and ran up again.   The team on Sundial was also waiting for the 9am hour so they let Nat go too.   The crowd in the kiddy wall arena now knew this was for the big 100 route goal and they were going NUTS.  Every lap there was cheering and shouting lead by the Dirt Barbies.   When Nat got her 100th in, it was incredible the applause and cheering.   But, our actual goal was our combined age.  I'm 60 and Nat is 44.  So, we quickly ran up Kid's Stuff, an easy trad route and used a sling around a chicken head halfway for protection.

We had gotten our 100 and thought we only needed one more for our goal.   We turned the corner and Cows in the Mist was open for the first time in a very long time.  We nailed that but wanted to get back to Jackhole.  As we left, we had to go right by Newton County Mentality (5.10d).  This was a route that was a very big maybe for me.  I had sent it fully only once and had fallen on it at least a half dozen times.   I couldn't risk it early in the comp because it is very powerful and I am NOT.  It also has a bad fall and the potential to give your rope a core-shot if you do fall.     I said I would give it one shot.    But, one big issue.  I didn't have a stick-clip and the first bolt is out of reach.   Nate to the rescue.  It took him three tries but he valiantly JUMPED up and clipped the first bolt for me, risking a turned ankle each time.   He and Todd were amazing in their support for my attempt.   Now safely clipped, I heel hooked got the little pocket, got the crimp, move the feet and threw.    First try I nailed it.  What a big relief.   Nate calmed me down as I almost slipped off on the 5.8 section above.   I rigged to lower off so I could get the biner at the top and then we started running to try to fit in Jackhole.   But, as luck would have it, the gun went off before we got back to the corridor.

Mine Mine Mine
What a treat.  When we got to the corridor, Tommy was half way up Mine Mine Mine, 5.11d.   I got out my camera and started videoing.   I was treated to an fascinating demonstration of Jeremy throwing out beta and Tommy calmly flowing up the route following each instruction smoothly and efficiently.   And this was his 123rd and final route of the competition.

Now was rush time to get back to the starting line before 10am.  But, before I left I was treated to the following!!
Spiderman helps Superman suit up for the run to the finish.

I grabbed two packs and the rope bag and ran after the super heroes.  Nat was confused.  WHY ARE YOU RUNNING.   I wanted to be sure we got to the finish line by the required time so I was going to make every effort possible to get there on time.   We passed several teams walking down but the super men were too fast for mere mortals to catch.   As we ran up the final stretch to the finish, the Dirt Barbie team was leading a cheer from the crowd knowing we had achieved our goal of at least 104 routes each.  

I would have loved to just crash while the results were tallied BUT, I wrote the scoring software and they were using one of my computers.   I took a quick shower and headed back to the store to help with the computer work.   I needed to do the merge of the data from two computers into one.    After working out a few glitches the results were finally there and after putting away my computers I headed to the barn.

The barn was rocking.  I had missed the swag throwing and arrived just as Andy began the Awards.    Here is a link to  Full 24 HHH Results
Here is a quick summary of how we did:

Advanced Individual:
First - Tommy Caldwell
Second - Jeremy Collins

Advanced Team
Tommy and Jeremy - Nineteen Finger Two Headed Beast of the Rockopolis

Intermediate Female
First - Natalie Neal

Intermediate Individual (out of 102 registered - 70 of which were in their 20's)
Second - Dick Dower
Third - Natalie Neal

Intermediate Team (out of 50 teams)
First - Leather and Lace

104 routes each - check - 106 for Nat, 107 for me
First Intermediate Team - check
11,000 points for Nat - check  (11,860)
12,000 for me - check  (12,430)
At least 10 5.10s - check - 11 for Nat, 13 for me

Number one - NATALIE - her 106 routes and amazing drive got her to within 250 points of Kate and within 530 points of Brittany.   She put up with me all summer and trained harder than almost anyone in the competition.  She blew her goals out of the water.

Andy Chasteen for putting on this amazing event.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch for hosting.
Jeremy Collins for his inspiration and sharing strategies.
Tommy Caldwell for showing us how it is done!  He is truly a class act.
The whole Patagonia crew and especially Brittany and Kate.    We  love those ladies.
Arkansas Climbing Coalition for cleanup and supporting climbing all over Arkansas
Cole Fennel for his beautiful new guidebook and his continued support for our efforts (and for putting both me and Nat in his book)
Ryan McDonnell for driving us and helping support us throughout our training.
Todd Johnson and Nate Moore for getting me psyched and encouraging me on Newton County

Raspberry Awards
Anyone in Intermediate that has sent 5.12
Anyone in Recreational that has sent 5.10

Finally time to go home
The crew from our cabin

60th Birthday Challenge

The challenge was to lead 60 routes in 12 hours!
The rules:
Place all my own gear
Lead every pitch
No route easier than 5.7
At least 10 5.10s
Allow other teams to clean the anchors so I can lower off.
Saturday I woke at 5:15am, 15 minutes before my alarm went off. I got my breakfast started (oatmeal, bagel with pb, banana) as my support crew started popping out of their tents.

My primary belayer/partner, Natalie, ready to sacrifice her day for me.

Ryan and Kurt were invaluable as my cleanup crew and allowed me to concentrate on the task of climbing instead of the busy work of cleaning anchors.
We headed out at around 6:15 and I was roped up at the base of my first climb at exactly 6:30am. I front loaded the day with a lot of 5.10's and hard 5.9's to try to have the end of the day filled with easier routes when I was tired and my fingers were toasted. I also wanted to do some of the harder gear routes early.

It was time to GSD!

My first route was a 5.8 to warm up for the 5.10c next to it.

I even lugged around the BIG GEAR.

You need the big gear for this 5.8+ R route.

At this point I am about half way through my list. I was a little behind schedule due to the difficulty of the routes and some hiking time but the 10's were done and quite a few of the 9's.

Early afternoon, Ryan needed to go help celebrate his dad's 59th birthday. So, for a while, I had to clean my own anchors. Again, without Ryan, Kurt, and Natalie, I could not have come close to succeeding. They are the kind of friends that go the extra yard without asking and are the kind of quality people you remember.
With most of the hard routes done, and the old body starting to feel it, Jeremy, Cole, Ross, and Andrew showed up to supplement my support crew. They came at a great time since my timeline was getting pretty close.

Jeremy soloed to the top of the bluff and went from anchor to anchor as I finished each route and moved draws. It sure helped not having to clean each anchor at this point.

My route count was somewhere in the low 50's at this point. I was ready for it to be over!

Jeremy had a unique way of cleaning my gear routes. He would lock off his cinch with a knot and use me as a counter-weight. As I lowered he ran up the rock and removed my gear!

Finally THE 60TH ROUTE! It was a 5.8+ and was pretty stiff for the final route.
Goal achieved, body tired, time for some PIZZA and BEER.
Thanks to Jeremy, Jason and Aaron Roy, the chef, and the waitress, the after party was amazing. The ranch supplied a nice room and the chef made a great cake. Aaron added some incredible home-made vanilla-rum ice cream.

Final tally:
60 routes in 11 hours `15 minutes
5.3 routes/hour no falls no takes
1 5.10d
2 5.10C
2 5.10b
7 5.10a
16 5.9
13 5.8
19 5.7
14 trad routes
46 sport routes

Sunday was total rest day and "take pictures" for the team while they finally got to climb. Here are a couple of parting shots as I just kicked back and vegged.

Natalie on Mr Magoo 5.10b

Kurt on Commodus 5.10a

Final giant thanks to Natalie, Kurt and Ryan primarily for their work throughout the day. Special thanks to Jeremy and his crew for arranging the party and picking up the slack at the end of the day. Thanks to Jason, Aaron and the whole HCR crew for the great food and party room. And finally, thanks to all who gave me encouragement and helped make it a great birthday.

Desert Towers

At the Red Rocks Rendezvous I was fortunate enough to have the winning bid for a climbing trip to do desert towers with Brittany Griffith. The auction was for the Access Fund and this item was sponsored by Black Diamond. Right off the bat let me tell you that Mountain Gear and Black Diamond went out of their way to make this a trip to remember. Brittany and Johnathan Thesenga were my climbing hosts while Adam Chamberlain and Kate Miller from Black Diamond graciously opened their cabin in Castle Valley for us. The plan was to do Castleton Tower on Saturday and be flexible on which route we did based on whether there were other parties there. Sunday the plan was to do Jah Man on Sister Superior.

The weather forecast for the weekend was sketchy at best and I was a bit concerned about being on a desert tower in a lightning storm. But, since I had never been to this area, I knew the trip would be great just to be out of Kansas City and into a new environment. I got in a bit early and was able to hike up to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park and also spent a little time at Dead Horse Point. Both were absolutely amazing.

Friday evening the group all met in Castle Valley, with Castleton Tower visible right outside the door. It had been raining off and on all day and the forecast for Saturday was 40% rain.

Saturday morning brought clouds and gloom but Johnathan's stoker meter was at max. Here is what the tower looked like that morning:

After a great breakfast we loaded up and headed for the tower. Things still looked iffy as we started up the hour and a half hump to the base.

A little higher up.

Things looked a bit better as we approached the base.

The weather had one great side effect. We were alone at the tower. So, Johnathan and I and Brittany and Kate would climb the North Chimney as two ropes of two and Andreas and Cassie would climb the North Face route. Of the 6 climbers in the group this would be the first desert tower for 3 of us.

Johnathan started up the first pitch with some intermittent sprinkles.

By the time Brittany started up the sun was out!
On top of my first desert tower. What a rush.

Brittany follows with Kate while Johnathan spews a constant stream of beta (right!)

Andreas, Cassie, and Johnathan enjoying the summit

Kate enjoys her first tower.
The weather was looking bad again.

When we left there were two parties still on the tower and the rain was closing. We hustled down and when we got about 100 yards from the van, the downpour hit.
We had dodged a bullet for sure and most of us got a little wet but were at least now safe and dry in the van.
 When we got back to the cabin, we were greeted with an amazing double rainbow display.

We had another great meal and looked forward to Jah Man the next day. Again the forecast was for rain but we seemed to be getting pretty lucky so I looked forward to my second tower the next day.
The drive into Jah Man was "exciting" since the road was muddy and part of it wandered up a stream bed with steep walls and big rocks for Johnathan to maneuver around. We got as far as we could and started another long uphill hike.

Cassie leading the first pitch of Jah Man

Looking up the amazing second pitch

I took a fall on the main crux but my story is it was to test the fantastic Chaos harness that Black Diamond gave me. The test went great and I LOVE this harness. In fact I took a pretty long lead fall in the gym when I got home just to test it some more. This route, Jah Man, is one of the best I have ever been on anywhere. The climbing is varied and continuous and on great rock. Chimneys, splitter cracks, and boulder problem moves make it quite an experience. In fact on the last pitch (Brittany combined the last two) I was a bit concerned. She flew up the incredible hand crack section and I heard her talking to Andreas and Cassie. They had topped out and rapped down the last short pitch. So I waited. And waited. hmmm I was wondering what was going on. Then I heard her say "I just can't reach the hold". My normal climbing partner is also a short female so I was very familiar with this issue. So this normal 5.10 move was now probably a hard 5.11 with only an old star drive bolt to protect it. Of course, she sent it after finding the "short" variation. When I got to that point I had no guilt at all reaching up and grabbing the tiny crimps she couldn't reach. But I did make a throw to the jug that I may not have wanted to do on lead.
Top of my second tower. Bent over so Brittany could get the shot. There was no place higher for her to stand!
We rapped off and headed home. When we got back to the cabin, we got hit by an incredibly strong front that came through with intense winds. It was over quickly but would have been pretty scary if we were still on the tower.

That evening we had a great feed with Kate and Adam pulling out all the stops. I have nothing but good things to say about all my hosts and to Black Diamond. I truly believe you can judge quite a bit about a company by its employees and Black Diamond has a quality group from the ones I met. There was never any drama and everyone went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Special thanks to Brittany and Johnathan for dragging these old bones up such fantastic routes. 
First a couple of Brittany that I thought came out pretty good from a novice photographer.

Johnathan on Castleton

I can't wait to get back and take some friend up Castleton. I am sold on desert towers! 

The 2008 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

A few notes before jumping into the story.  Not too many pictures because we were busy but we got a few shots from our friends Corbin and Kurt.   

View of the morning meeting for the 24 hours of Horseshoe Hell showing the beautiful ranch and the perfect weather. 

The 24 HHH (hours of horseshoe hell) is a climbing competition where teams of two climb for 24 continuous hours and is held at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas (HCR).   Each team member climbs as many routes as he/she can and each route is assigned points based on its level of difficulty.   All climbs are lead only and if you fall, you must return to the ground and start again.  In other words, to score points on a route you must lead it clean, no hangs, no takes, no falls.   Each route can be climbed twice for points and traditional climbs are bumped up one level for points.   If each member of the team climbs at least one route per hour, both members are awarded bonus points.  If on member does not complete at least on route per hour, niether team member gets the bonus.  The bonus is the equivelant to climbing the hardest route in the canyon, a Chris Sharma route called "The Prophet" (5.14a) and is worth 790 points.  To put the points in perspective, a 5.7 is worth  70 points,  a 5.8+ 100 points,  a 5.10d 200 points, a 5.12a 350 points, a 5.12d  490 points.  You can see that the points move up quickly at the higher levels but that climbers can still score well if they are willing to climb a lot of routes.  The competition has four divisions based on your consistent onsight ability, Recreational (5.9- and below), Intermediate( 5.10d and below), Advanced (anything), Womens (all women regardless of division).  You are not allowed to climb routes above your division for points.   Previous years allowed you to climb 5 routes above your division which lead to rampant sandbagging in the lower levels with Rec climbers sending 5.10d and 5.11's  and Intermediates sending 5.12's for points.   The new rules leveled the playing field.  This year Patagonia was the major sponser and they brought in Sonny Trotter and Brittany Griffith to compete.

This is our third year doing this competition together.   The first year we were in the Rec division, climbed 36 routes each and didn't climb anything harder than 5.8+.   Last year we were in the Intermediate division, climbed 60 routes each and climbed only one 5.10.   Natalie finished as the second female both years.  We we again in Intermediate to along with 97 others in that division (most of which seemed to be 20 something testosterone filled males).

The team - Leather and Lace

Each year the point totals and total routes have really gone up.  We knew it was going to be a real challenge this year.  Our original goal for the competition this year was 72 routes, or 3 routes per hour each.   Our first year we averaged 1.5, our second year 2.5, so going to 3 per hour seemed within our grasp.  THEN, about 4 weeks out we did a 12 hour test.   We concentrated on our hardest routes and sent 40 routes each in 12 hours including 5 5.10's and 9 5.9's.   It was time to re-evaluate!    Nat and I both decided to try to up our game from that point on.    We agreed that this year we would suffer, not stop, try to not wait in any line for routes, and send as many hard routes as we could.     Nat also stepped up and agreed to lead some trad routes, some of which were rated R.    Nowwe  just to make it to the comp without injury or sickness and to keep our fingertips hard and our weight down.   No small feat, I might add!   
We arrived at HCR on Thursday evening with our trusty drivers Kurt and Corbin.   I had reserved a cabin for the weekend so we were going to avoid the circus up at the upper camp ground and hopefully get some good sleep before the comp.    Friday we went up and climbed one 5.10 and 3 5.9's that had been a little problematic.     WE WERE READY.
Saturday dawned with PERFECT weather.     I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast and we all slept like babies.     We loaded our packs into the truck and drove through the mass of climbers at the start so we could park the truck closer to the North Forty.  Stashing gear and other trick are a big part of the HHH strategy used by those wanting to really optimize their performance.    
10am on the dot the gun goes off and Nat starts RUNNING down the hill.  Of course what can I do but run after her.  We are the only ones running I was told later.   We reach our packs and start humping up to the North Forty.  We have a specific route as our target and we get there first.   Others are right on our heals but it seems odd that we ran, they strolled and we barely beat them (some people hang in the campground to avoid the hill at the start).     Nerves are high, I am unbelievably hyper.  I start up our first route, Count Chocula, a 5.10a with a short tricky start.   As I reach up to slot my fingers in a pocket there is a slight commotion at the base.  As I turn my head to see, my foot slips and I hit the rope!!!!  My only fall in 3 years and my only fall ever on this route!    Quickly I compose myself and head back up.   "THERE WILL BE NO MORE FALLS", I tell myself.    

Very early on Nat heading over the roof on Frankenberry 5.9+.

My turn.

Nat cruises "More Better"  5.10b
I get my turn too.

We jump from route to route trying to get on all our targetted 5.10s and pumpy 5.9's as early as we can.    We get lucky on early on and are able to get on a 5.8+R trad route and a 5.9- trad route that share anchors with very popular sport routes.   Trad route are great vehicles for avoiding lines, especially at night.       We took a while to finish off our 5 targetted 10's and the hard 9's but we were in pretty good shape going into the night.   We were mixing trad and sport more and targetting the remaining 9's and a few 8's.   
Circus Freaks  5.9- trad.

Our only food for the entire comp was:  two separate meals of tuna and crackers, 2 bagels with peanut butter (one for each of us) 2 peanut butter and jelly Mojo bars, one power bar, and a zip bag full of trail mix.   We each had one 5 hour energy and shared an amazing nalgene full of Electric Juice.   THAT STUFF IS AMAZING!  Maybe just antedotal but I did not get pumped and recovered quickly from route to route.  Seriously we both felt amazing all night!  (http://www.myspace.com/drinkyergreens)
About 3 or 4 in the morning Andy Chasteen shows up with his computer.   Hmmmm, not a good sign since I wrote the scoring software and we really didn't have an easy way to test much before the event.   Andy allowed Nat to have a surrogate belayer while I tweaked the database so he could produce some reports.   They had collected score cards at 10 pm and were busy inputting the sheets to get a head start on results.   The tech support didn't last long and before Nat was on her second lap, I got back into competiton mode and grabbed the cinch to resume my role.
As dawn broke (it took forever for the sun to break through) we were running out of routes.  There were lines on routes we hadn't done and we still had 2 hours or so to climb.  We were faced with a dilema.   Go East fot a bunch of routes but waste 20 minutes at least to cross the canyon?   Go South to fewer choices but maybe run into lines again?  Stay in the North Forty and WAIT in lines.   Orrrrrrrrrrr  do CRIMP SCAMPI  5.10d with over 80 routes each under our belts.   I was up for a try.   I actually felt great.     Just so I could be called a real poser I took off my shirt, got focused and started up.   For some reason, at the crux 4th bolt clip, I saw I could easily reach it from below!   I have no idea why I hadn't noticed that the other couple of times I had sent it.   After that, no hesitation, no resting, and it was over!   I as amazed.   It went so smooth that from the anchors, I told Nat I would try another lap.  When I hit the ground Nat said "I want to try".  I was ecstatic!   She didn't want to risk leaving draws so with the draws up and me going a second time there was no issue with the draws.   She started up and took FOREVER to move through the bottom crux.  It was making me verym very nervous.   Then, at the 4th bolt I gave her the beta to clip from below and she was able to also, even though she is height challenged :).   She moved quickly to the main crux and did the "short person" variation flawlessly!   Leather and Lace made Crimp Scampi their b$#@ch!    I was fired up and quickly finished off my second lap.   Nat didn't think she had it in her to do another lap so we moved on.    There were still lines on most of the routes we needed but we were fired up now!!!   The rest was all a bonus.
Finally with only about 15 or 20 minutes left before the 9:45 cutoff, we ended up below the easy trad, guide routes.    We quickly got both our laps in on the first and to even out our route count, I agreed to only do one lap on the second guide route.  We both ran up our final route and as I was coiling the rope, the gun went off to signal the end of the competition.   We were both relieve and frustrated.   We had more in us and were a bit frustrated that lines had kept us from getting a few more routes.   But, that is the nature of this event.   It is not just about physical ability, it is about strategy and optimizing your time.  On that front I don't think we could have done much better this year.
We did the best we could and all that remained was to get in a shower and WAIT!  As expected, Sonny Trotter won the Advanced division with an amazing 118 routes and a high level of difficulty.   Surprisingly though, his team got squeezed into second to local talent Cole Fennel and Stark Ligon.   As Andy was ready to announce Intermediate results he softly said "This is huge".  I was amazed to have my name called first.   Then as I got to the award table Andy told me to wait a second as he announced second NATALIE.   After the divisions were announced they moved on to the Women's division.  As expected, Brittany Griffith was first. THEN, Natalie was announced as SECOND!    There was some satisfaction to see that Natalie climbed 9 more routes than the winner since we knew she couldn't match the difficulty that Brittany would send.   btw: We met Brittany the evening before the competition and she is great.   What a great ambassador for Patagonia.

My age: 59
Nat's age: 43
Combined age: 102
Routes lead: 91
Hardest send: 5.10d

5.10's 6 different
5.9's  11 different
5.8's 14 different
5.7's 11 different
5.6's 2 different
5.5's 2 different
Trad 13 different
Sport 33 different

My Score 10,090.  
Nat's Score  9,900  
Team Score 19,990
Places in Intermediate Division (99 athletes)  First and Second
Nat's place in Female Division   Second.
Overall team place out of 92 teams - 14th 
Overall individual places with all competitors out of 184,  30th and 32nd 
Routes per hour 3.8   we tied for 8th out of 184

59th Birthday Challenge

Friday 2 days before my birthday at 7:23am Natalie, Kurt and I start the challenge on The Bulb 5.8. I decided on allowing 3 laps per route, lead only, no route easier than 5.8. I would do my 3 laps one right after another, pulling the rope for each lead. Then, Kurt would do a top rope lap and Natalie would either lead or top rope a lap and clean the draws. This allowed me some rest and my team would get some climbing in too.
First route:Next was Son's of the Soil 5.10a, Groovy 5.9, Tres Equis 5.8 (time 9:16am)
Next the very pumpy First Normal Form.
Time for the meat of the Challenge.
Season of Storms 5.10a, More Better 5.10b
Count Chocula 5.10a
Finished the 10's by doing Private Property 5.10a. Next it's time to work on the 5.9's. Leonid 5.9+, Local Hebrew 5.9-, Strongman 5.9+, Controversy 5.9- (time 3:36pm), Frankenberry 5.9+, Lion Tamer 5.9-. Now for the final 5.9, the dreaded Jackhole. It is he hardest 5.9- at the ranch for sure. I was a bit worried about doing 3 laps in a row so late in the game on this one. But it went by OK. Time to cruise on the remaining 5.8's. Around the Fur 5.8, Harry Butthole Pussy Potter 5.8+ (painful crimps at this point), African Herbman 5.8+ and finally I only had to do 2 laps on the classic Green Goblin 5.8.

So the final tally was:
Leads on 5.10 (3 laps each on 5 different routes) 15
Leads on 5.9 (3 laps each on 8 different routes) 24
Leads on 5.8 (3 laps each on 6 routes, 2 laps on 1) 20

Finish time for me was 8:00pm (12.5 hours)and for the team was 8:23 (13 hours)
Grand total: 59 routes on lead no falls.

Natalie and Kurt did all the same routes but did one lap each and Natalie was a trooper by doing two laps on the final route to give the team a total of 100 routes.
I averaged roughly 4.7 routes/hour and the team averaged 7.6 routes/hour.

Big Thanks to the team of Natalie and Curt.
Guess which hands are mine:
After the fun, the rest of our crew from Kansas City showed up later than night (Dan, Laura, Ross, Garrett). Saturday at the ranch was beautiful. I was moving a little slowly but we decided to finish off the 4 5.8's at the North Forty that we hadn't done the day before and socialize with our homies. My fingers were a bit tender but we moved slowly through our final goal and even snuck in a 5.6 trad route to test my new Big Bro! Before we did our final 5.8, I asked Natalie if she wanted to try Crimp Scampi 5.10d. This is ne of the most sought after 5.10 at Horseshoe Canyon ranch. She had gotten on it on top rope for the very first time on our last trip and had to figure out intermediate moves on some parts because of her, how should I phrase this, height challenge. She moved up through the difficult opening sequence and got up to the difficult 4th bolt clip. With the rope extended for the clip she took a graceful ride!

She corrected he body position and got to the top after two falls. Since my partner was motivated, it motivated me. I had sent Crimp Scampi before but it would be another great birthday challenge to get it after my previous day's work. I felt pretty strong but on the final crux only got half a pad on the key slot and took a ride. I finished up but neither Natalie or I were satisifed.
Nat was determined and after a rest she started back up. This time she smoothly move through all three cruxes, taking a brief shake out before the final crux and SENT THIS BAD BOY.
Now motivated, I decided to try to put a stamp on my birthday weekend.
Leather and Lace put the finishing touches by both leading Crimp Scampi 5.10d
Kurt is fairly new to climbing and this was only his second trip to HCR. His previous trip had been limited to some fairly tame routes. On this trip he did all the 8's, 9's and 5 of the 10's in the North Forty with only taking a fall on 3 routes, First Normal, More Better, and Jackhole. But, he continued and finished all of them. Then on Saturday he switched from top-roping to leading and successfully lead First Normal Form with no falls.
Here is Kurt pulling the crux of First Normal Form with Tommy leading Green Goblin to his right.THEN THE RAINS CAME.
Sooooo we moved the birthday party to the Tee PeeAndy Chasteen joined us for burgers, dogs, and birthday cake. I was surprised by being presented a Yellow Link Cam from my friends in the addrock group. Thanks everyone.
We finished off the rainy night by watching Dosage V in the Lodge, thanks to Jason.