Links of the Week (6/15/2020)

So much outdoors…

Despite characteristically capricious weather and relatively brief weather windows, this past summer season in Patagonia proved to be an exciting one for climbers, paragliders, and BASE jumpers alike.

​The pictures alone are enough to inspire you to get out there.

Highlights from Patagonia’s summer climbing season: new routes, linkups, paraglides and BASE jumps – Alpinist.com


Getting big sponsorship dollars to pursue your outdoor adventures is a dream for many people. After all, who wouldn’t want to make a living hiking, backpacking, traveling, and pursuing your other passions.

Makes sense…but good to hear it distilled down here.

Video: How to Get Sponsored in the Outdoor Industry — The Adventure Blog


Being able to fix a tire on your bike is a fundamental skill that ever rider needs to know.

​As someone who accidentally ran over his own bike recently, this is a video I needed to watch.

Video: How to Fix a Flat Tire on Your Bike — The Adventure Blog


Solo backpacking can be the ultimate meditation experience. You can travel at your own pace, view beautiful scenery in solitude, and really get the chance to tune into your environment with minimal distractions. But, for some, venturing out to the backcountry alone conjures up visions of long, wide-eyed nights in the sleeping bag, wondering what is making that noise outside the tent?

Whether you’re committed to conquering solo backpacking by choice or forced to go alone because your trail partners can’t get time away from work, this article offers some tips to help you make the transition from backpacking with others to backpacking alone with confidence and ease. If you’re already backpacking solo, review these tips for additional ideas for safety and comfort.

I dream of the day I can get out and do some real backpacking camping trips again.

Tips for Solo Backpacking – Gaia GPS

Links of the Week (6/08/2020)

National Parks are opening and I wish I was there…

With a three-day weekend before them, Southern Californians will have to weigh the lure of desert vistas against the chance of crowds and the challenge of rising temperatures, expected to reach the 90s by Tuesday.

Even though I’m not back home to enjoy my state’s parks opening, I’m happy to see that they are.

Joshua Tree just opened, before a three-day weekend. Here’s what to expect


Although tens of millions of American children show no medical symptoms of COVID-19, their education, mental health, and development have suffered because of the virus. Adults need to help them regain normalcy. One way to do that is by opening summer camps as soon as possible. Children face a relatively small risk of harm from summer camps, the risk that their participation poses to adults can likely be managed, and the benefits of giving families at least the option of sending children to camp are substantial.

Amen to that.

Summer Is Approaching. Bring Camp Back.


Earlier this month, for the first time in recent memory, pronghorn antelope ventured into the sun-scorched lowlands of Death Valley national park. Undeterred by temperatures that climbed to over 110F, the animals were observed by park staff browsing on a hillside not far from Furnace Creek visitor center.

​Very cool.

‘We’ve never seen this’: wildlife thrives in closed US national parks


When Italian towns began offering houses for sale for little more than $1, they inspired legions of dreamers to take a gamble on moving to a remote corner of Italy.

Although spending a few thousand dollars extra on renovating the property was usually part of the deal, it was sweetened by the prospect of a new life in an idyllic corner of a beautiful country.

And then the coronavirus struck, plunging the world into crisis, with Italy among the worst affected countries.

🤯

They bought a $1 house in Italy, then Covid-19 struck

Climbing By the Rivers of Zion

The freedom and stress of climbing my first “big wall”…alone.

In 2010, I scraped together a couple days off around the first weekend in March. I hadn’t planned on going to Zion by myself and climbing my first big wall solo…

But there I was.

“Oh shit”, I thought. “Am I stuck on the side of this rock wall? Am I going to have to cut my rope? But if I do that how will I rappel?…”

My thoughts began to race as my desperation increased and my heart slowly sank in to my stomach.

“What the f#$k am I going to do?”


Photo by Zack Melhus on Pexels.com

Zion National Park was established in 1919, is located in southwest Utah, and is best known for its dramatic desert canyon landscapes and natural rock arches.

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (590 km2) park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 ft (800 m) deep. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches. (Via Wikipedia)

If you have never been, I’d put it on your list. It is incredible.


I had been trying to get a climbing partner to head out there with me but hadn’t received any definite yes’s from my buddies. This led me to practice my roped soloing just to get SOME sort of practice. Finally I got someone to answer the siren call that is familiar to all climbers and we made plans to drive out to Zion.

However, a few days before I left, he got a job he’d been interviewing for and had to bail.

Damn!

So it was off to Zion all by my lonesome.

Freedom in the Journey

I loaded up all my climbing gear in to my black Jeep and drove that stick shift beauty across the southwest from one beautiful location to the next. Driving across that part of the United States can feel like driving in another world. You cruise across rust red landscapes and suddenly dive in to sheer canyons that are hidden until you are right on top of them.

The freedom you feel in a landscape this beautiful is difficult to describe.

All I can do is encourage you to stop hesitating and just drive….which is what I did. Eight hours after leaving San Diego, I was in beautiful Zion National Park.

Watchman Campground

Watchman Campground the next morning

Freedom…and Stress

March in Zion is still pretty cold and I awoke to the sight of my breath and frost on the outside of my tent.

Nevertheless, I had to get my day started, and the anticipation to start this climb pulled me out of my warm sleeping bag.

After breakfast, I drove over to the pull-out across the road from the Cerberus Gendarme climbing area. Here is a shot of where I was climbing…not a bad spot huh?

Red arrow points to the area where I was going to climb.
Red arrow points to the area where I was going to climb.

That little red pin on the left?…that is Angel’s Landing (a well known tourist attraction and hike).

Touchstone ascends the wall just to the left of the obvious crack/corner that goes most the way up.

Touchstone Wall

A mixture of anticipation and worry began to creep in as I looked at 800-1000 feet of climbing that I was about to try.

Am I really going to climb that without a climbing partner?


One thing you have to realize about climbing solo (roped)…you do ALL the work.

Normally you have a climbing partner to split the work with you, alternating between climbing and belaying. Yet, when you rope solo, you actually end up doing 3 times the amount of work you normally would.

Here is the partner climbing equation as a baseline for comparison:

climb the 100ft pitch, fix anchor, belay your partner up to you = 100ft of work (for 1 person)

Repeat by number of pitches (8 for this climb) = 800ft of work

Here’s the rope solo work equation:

climb the 100ft pitch, fix anchor + rappel 100ft back to your previous anchor + ascend the 100ft of rope you fixed to the anchor you just climbed up to = 300ft of work

Repeat by number of pitches (8 for this climb) = 2400ft of work

I was about to climb 2400ft to ascend 800ft!


The Climb

(warning: lots of climbing jargon going forward)

yeah...he's a climber too
yeah…he’s a climber too

With a nice short approach I was looking up at the bolt ladder first pitch in no time:

pitch 1 bolt ladder
pitch 1 bolt ladder

While I was very happy that this well established climb had some fixed hardware, the first 5 or 6 bolts are definitely REACHY. I’m 5’8” with a reach a little longer than my height and I had to top step in my etriers like a mo-fo. But I got them all and made my way to the second pitch with the short roof.

You can see the 2nd pitch’s roof section (triangular shadow I think) above my lead line on the upper left:

I rapped the 1st pitch and got ready to clean.

I was surprised at how straight forward the roof section was. The 3rd pitch was pretty straight forward and went smoothly.

Here’s the view looking down from the top of the 3rd (or maybe 2nd) pitch. Either way...fun shot
Here’s the view looking down from the top of the 3rd (or maybe 2nd) pitch. Either way…fun shot

Tired but happy, I called it for the day; fixed my two lines and headed back to camp.

The next day I didn’t expect how tiring re-ascending 300 feet of fixed ropes can be. Once I got back up to my previous day’s high point, I snapped a couple pics of Angels Landing behind me:

Angel's Landing behind me
Angel’s Landing behind me

Here is a closer shot of Angel’s Landing. Other climbs like, ‘Prodigal Sun’ goes up to the right of the light, square notch and ‘Angel’s Hair’ follows the crack system to the left of it:

Angel's Landing wall
Angel’s Landing wall

After about 500 feet I think I got off route because I ended up doing some very sparsely protected face climbing way to the left of the next anchors.

My ability to curse like a sailor was made well known by my echos throughout the canyon…but I got through ok (even though I had to run it out some). I don’t think it would have been as bad if I wasn’t solo, but climbing solo always adds in that extra factor that spices up a climb. Being off route doesn’t help any either.

At the top of the 5th I took 10 minutes to refuel and actually look around and had my WOW moment when I got this view that I don’t think too many people get.
At the top of the 5th I took 10 minutes to refuel and actually look around and had my WOW moment when I got this view that I don’t think too many people get.
pitch 6, touchstone wall

Now it was on to pitches with more free climbing.

The 7th pitch was another interesting one with the long crack that took #4 C4s, but as I only had two I had to leap frog them all the way up (at least 20-30 feet) to the short chimney squeeze.

I stopped there as there was a bunch of slings/ropes around a huge fixed chock stone and I was running out of light and just ran out of water.

I knew the top of the 7th ends at the tree but I made the call to start rappelling from where I was and thanks to all the fixed anchors, rappelling the route was very straight forward even by headlamp.

The Scare

Rappelling by yourself is a lot quicker than with a partner, but the risks are all your own and thus MUCH higher.

I had already descended over 400 feet and had about 300 to go, when I stopped at an anchor station and began to pull my ropes down to me.

Now the key when pulling your rappelling ropes is to make sure that all of that rock above you won’t snag the rope you are pulling up through the anchor you rappelled from…on the way up OR on the way down. A stuck rope can mean a long cold night stuck to the side of a rock wall while you figure out how you get down, or hope to flag down rescue in the morning.

I was pulling my rope at the top of the 3rd pitch (so the ropes were through the 4th pitch anchor) when all of a sudden I couldn’t pull it any more. Thinking I was just tired I gave it a bit of a whipping motion to get it away from the rock, hoping that the momentum would get it to move again.

It didn’t.

As I whipped the rope more and more hoping I could free it from whatever it was snagged on, my heart began to beat faster.

“Oh shit”, I thought. “Am I stuck on the side of this rock wall? Am I going to have to cut my rope? But if I do that how will I rappel?…”

My thoughts began to race as my desperation increased and my heart slowly sank in to my stomach.

“What the f#$k am I going to do?”

The Calm

Hanging from the side of the wall, darkness now fully descended on the canyon, my thoughts settled. Then an interesting thing happened…a moment of calm and clarity came like the sudden ceasing of a storm.

I really only had three choices.

  1. Cut the rope
  2. Hunker down for a cold night
  3. Give one last full body weight pull on the rope

When you are backed in to a corner with nowhere to go, clarity can hit you like a slap in the face.

”Full body weight pull it is then” I thought.

I have never pulled so hard on a rope in my 10+ years of climbing.

All of a sudden I dropped…

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Then…just as suddenly…I was jerked to stop by the anchor I was tethered to. With a whirling, whipping sounds that zipped through the air, my rope flew by my head.

It was free!!

Somehow I had pulled my rope free and it was now hanging below me patiently waiting to be of use again.

With a hoot that echoed down the canyon I set up my rappel and started down to the dark canyon floor. A couple pitches later I was finally down to the car and utterly exhausted. I threw my gear down and made my way back to camp once again:

The Bitter End

Knot terminology:

Bitter end: the very end of the line

Climbing big walls is a push-pull relationship.

You will get psyched to have a project to work up to, obsess over the details, read about it, and even dream about it as the rock pulls you to it.

Then you actually start climbing.

Over the years, I have heard people describe Big Wall climbing as “Type 2” fun.

Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect.

That is spot on.

So, even as the fear of being stuck, the nerves of climbing off route, and the exhaustion was still fresh…that very next day, I drove around and just enjoyed the park.

Reveling in the fact that I had just been a speck on the side of these thousand foot monoliths, I sat in the back of my Jeep, ate my lunch, and stared up at what might be my next climb.

one last B&W picture I took
one last B&W picture I took

Links of the Week (05/11/2020)

California dreaming, photography, and blogging for a living…

Do you dream about spelunking your way through a prehistoric cave? Is glamping under the stars more your style? Whatever your outdoor pleasure, you’re sure to find it in California.

You can find almost anything in my home state.

California’s Wide-Open Spaces


This month I clutched 250,000 pageviews. I’m thrilled, but looking at just a few years back it’s crazy how far my blog has come. We all start at 0 and we all have the power to catapult our blogs to help reach our goals.”

I stumbled across this site and got caught up reading a ton of articles. That’s usually a good sign of quality.

The 7 Best Ways to Grow Blog Traffic (0-250,000 Pageviews a Month)


We usually camp in national parks or the bush, but we also use caravan parks on extended roadtrips to enjoy luxuries such as power and a pool, and to clean up and do a few days’ work. A good caravan park is a destination in itself, and we’ve stayed in a few for up to a week, enjoying the experience.

A nice read for anyone who dreams of touring the country sometime in life.

The romance vs the reality of caravan parks


Feeling nervous about taking photographs in public can really hold your photography back. I personally can remember at least a year or so of photographing “interesting details” on walls and pavements because I just didn’t quite have the guts to photograph the people and scenes all around me. I wish I’d stopped to think about that at the time, and especially about how to overcome that fear!

Fantastic Tips to Stop Feeling Shy Taking Photographs in Public

Cody Wanner's #NOSMALLCREATOR Movement

If you are in the vlogging scene at all, you need to go check this guy out…

I postulate about about how Cody Wanner didn’t start the no small creator fire…he just discovered this flame, fanned it, lit the torch and RAN WITH IT!!

He’s an amazingly big personality, great vlogger, and good dude. Go follow him.

CALIFORNIANS don't Know How GOOD they Have It

Man I was spoiled growing up here…

Good lord California is amazing. Having grown up and lived there for most of my life, I never realized how nice it was ALL THE TIME.

Now I do.

I never realized how good I had it.

Black Rifle Coffee

Veteran owned and operated…

This was actually another Christmas present I received this year. I looked the company up and then got drawn in to their over the top YouTube videos.

Black Rifle Coffee Company is a premium, small-batch, roast-to-order, veteran-owned coffee company. We develop our explosive roast profiles with the same mission focus we learned as military members serving this great country and are committed to supporting veterans, law enforcement, and first responders. With every purchase you make, we give back.

Another good batch of coffee if you want to try something different. Pretty cool that they support Veterans too.

I’m pretty easy to shop for at Christmas time. 🤣

Here’s their YouTube Channel.

Two Days in San Francisco and What to see in Chinatown!!

Getting up super early lets you see the city like no other way…

This trip was so quick but so fun. I was flying solo which allowed me to get up super early and see parts of the city in ways most people don’t get too.