Links of the Week (3/23/2020)

Climbing will be in the Olympics…you pumped?!

The inclusion of climbing in the Olympics is new, but the topic itself has been around for decades

Over 10 years ago I knew this would eventually happen. Glad to see it here.

Climbing in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics: How We Got Here and What the Future Holds


Climbing will premier in the Olympics on August 4 at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, Japan. Prep for the venue is well underway.

First Look: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Climbing Walls


There will be a total of 40 climbers (20 men and 20 women) competing at the Tokyo Olympics, and each country attending the games has been given a maximum quota of two competitors per gender. The climbers who have already qualified for the Olympics were selected through a series of Olympic qualification events, including the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships this past summer in Hachioji, Japan, and a more recent combined contest in Toulouse, France.

Meet the Athletes Climbing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics


The sport of climbing and cinema go back a long way and there are dozens of great films to see, both from Hollywood and from climbers themselves.

The Hollywood climbing films range from sorta realistic to the absurd to downright cheesy. And the library of classic real climbing films is big.

​Lists like these are always fun. I think I’ve seen about half of these and my two favorite are probably Return to Sender and Cliffhanger. 🤣

25 Must-Watch Real and Hollywood Climbing Movies – Gripped Magazine

Creative Intimacy

You ever wonder about who Albert Einstein hung out with?

Albert Einstein’s mind was the first to grasp the theory of relativity. William Shakespeare penned the timeless drama of Romeo and Juliet. Pablo Picasso’s brilliance brought cubism to the masses. Royal Robbins’ adventurous spirit drove him to the first ascent of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

image via Wikipedia (Pablo Picasso and scene painters sitting on the front cloth for Léonide Massine’s ballet Parade, staged by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 1917)

These geniuses of their time are all credited with amazing accomplishments. But did they accomplish these things solely because of their own brilliance or were there others that deserve some of the shine credited to these stars? An article in the New York Times dove into the myth of the ‘lone genius’.

We’ve all seen it.

image via Wikipedia (Tom Frost, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Yvon Chouinard at the completion of the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan.)

At one point in time we have all probably revered those figures from the past who discovered a law of physics, wrote a timeless song, created a masterpiece of art, or (in my old circles) established a classic climb. Often times these creations and discoveries are attributed to someone of genius who was probably known for their solitude and is still widely pictured in that same light. Yet the Times article brings to light the partners, confidants, and even rivals that helped these men push their generations into the future.

Birds of a feather flock together right?

image via Wikipedia (Also known as “Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern”. The painting depicts (from left in back) Joshua Sylvester, John Selden, Francis Beaumont, (seated at table from left) William Camden, Thomas Sackville, John Fletcher, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Samuel Daniel, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Southampton, Sir Robert Cotton, and Thomas Dekker.)

If you steer away from the cultural icons and spend a little time learning about those around them, we can find some interesting characters that also theorized, painted, wrote, or climbed along side these pioneers.

Highly recommend reading the Times article. It brings a new perspective on the team work and community that genius can require.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

The Battles Within

Exploring your call of the wild…

Travel writer Tynan wrote a great article a while back that feels like he plucked it right out of my brain. As someone who still has a passion to climb as much as I can, yet can’t, there is always a push and pull balancing act that I bet almost everyone deals with in life. Tynan gives a good analogy.

A wild horse is a beautiful thing on its own, but isn’t very useful to a person. To create a symbiotic relationship with the horse, the owner must break the horse, training it to give up some of its wild instincts and replace them with conditioned responses.

I rode a horse a few weeks ago in Chile. She was generally well behaved, but had her quirks. Sometimes, riding along in the desert, there would be a tasty looking shrub. If we were walking slowly enough, she would stop and eat it. I’d have to yank on the reins to prevent her from doing it, but that didn’t stop her from trying again next time.

It feels like my brain is the same way. I train it over and over again, but it’s never completely broken. There are battles that I fight every single day, knowing that winning doesn’t mean eliminating those battles entirely, but just winning them more often than not.

I too never feel like I truly win that ever present war with my brain, but maybe I do win most of the battles day by day. In past years my wife has understood that “call of the wild” for me and would graciously take the kiddos for a week or so and say “Just go climb”. I’ve been able to take trips to climb Half Dome, El Cap, Leaning Tower, and other lesser known climbs.

While it has been a while since I’ve been able to climb, that call is still there. Today I encourage you to explore your own Battles Within.

Links of the Week (01/20/2020)

Welcome 2020!! Here are your first links for this great new year…

The point is there are a variety of reasons it’s called adversity, and a variety of outcomes based on how you choose to handle it. Running through it all is one common thread, a brutal truth that you must eventually embrace if you want to plow through setbacks and succeed.

No one cares. Work harder.

​There’s more to this article than a blunt truth headline. This is just the kind of read that is good for you early in the year.

Why You Must Accept the Harsh Truth That Nobody Cares and You Need to Work Harder


Thirty states in the U.S. have coastlines, so what makes California so epic that you should devote an entire road trip solely to its splendor? For starters, how about redwoods, amazing beaches, waves, trails and, oh yes, just a couple of epic campgrounds.

​Obviously I’m a bit biased when it comes to touting a California road trip…they even list some places that I’m not familiar with on here. Great write up if you want to start a checklist of places to go in the the Golden State.

California Road Trip Planner: The Best Views, Trails, and Campgrounds


Some trips are, shall we say, more eventful than others. And one man’s account of what was meant to be a short, 24-hour trip will certainly make you grateful for your last forgettable travel experience.

I don’t care if I’ve linked to this crazy adventure story before…go read it again. It’s hard to believe this all happened in 24 hours.

This Man’s Unbelievably Dramatic Trip to Mexico to Keep His Airline Status Might Be the Best New Year’s Eve Story Ever


Given a steady dose of jaw-dropping beauty and a freedom from the routine of daily life back home, it’s amazing what flows from the mind if you’re only willing to catch it and take the risk of putting it into words.

​This engineer documented his hike of the Pacific Crest Trail over on his own site Stone and Sky. He uses my absolute favorite writing app…Ulysses and talks a bit about that app usage on the trail here.

The Modern Day Adventures of Ulysses

Your life won’t flash before your eyes

Yosemite Valley. El Capitan. My foot had just slipped…

Yosemite Valley. El Capitan. Salathe Wall. The Ear.
“F@#k this.”

mountain

“F@#k!!!”

Numerous variations of that phrase left my mouth more times than I care to recall while I climbed behind “The Ear””. An aptly named rock formation, it is artfully featured about 1,800 feet up the face of El Capitan, and appears to constantly eavesdrop on every creature in Yosemite Valley…

…except on that day.

That day there was no way that The Ear could even hear the blare of an occasional car horn over my violent mutterings and free-flowing curses. It wasn’t out of anger that I spouted those profanities; it was due to the fact that I was at least 40-50 feet above my last piece of protection and if I fell, I would fall onto any number of ledges below…like a pinball that is haphazardly pulled by gravity towards its final resting place. Needless to say, I was scared out of my f@#king mind.


Back in 1958, the first ascent of El Capitan (via “The Nose”) sparked a “Golden Age” of climbing in Yosemite that led to many of today’s classic big wall routes. Throughout the 1960s, local climbers lived in Camp 4 and pioneered these climbs up the granite monolith of El Cap, which watches over the Valley floor to this day. The Salathe Wall, first climbed in 1961, is considered to be second only to The Nose in its popularity, classic style, and all-around big wall beauty.

Image via iamountaineers.org

Over 50 years after that first ascent, Josh and I were preparing to climb the Salathe Wall, a 35 pitch route (about 3500 feet) up the southwest face of El Capitan. We had been planning this trip for almost a year and our excitement was at a fever pitch now that the time was finally here. We had meticulously checked our packing list numerous times to see if there was any way we could reasonably lighten our load since we knew lugging a 60 pound haul bag up El Cap would expend precious energy and slow us down.

Any climber that had crossed our paths over the past year and even whispered the words Salathe Wall had been peppered with questions of tips and advice, a couple of which really paid off during our climb. With our year-long preparations finally complete, we settled down in the birthplace of big wall climbing and attempted to sleep before our climb.

sunset in Yosemite Valley

The inside of “The Ear” is commonly described as having a Bombay shape, or what is essentially an upside down “V”. What this means for climbers is that they can’t climb away from the most dangerous part of the pitch (the opening to the abyss below) because above them the climb narrows to about 3-5 inches. If you can picture a tiny person climbing from behind an earlobe towards the outer part of that ear, then you can somewhat picture what the climb is like. The intrepid souls that decide to brave this climbing crucible have to do this without any substantial climbing gear protection, risking life or lots of broken limbs.

(If you see the picture below, you can see what the pitch looks like. That last piece of protection at the lip was my last piece. If you look close you can see me hidden in the shadows above.)

(Now, there is climbing gear that allows for some mitigation of this risk, but it was climbing gear that we didn’t have with us…much to my chagrin.)

What this meant for me was that I had to traverse the middle ground of this upside down “V” looking for tiny edges to grab and small ledges to put my feet on while hoping that I didn’t slip or grab the wrong one. In fact, I was trying so desperately to stay away from the opening below that I couldn’t even turn my head to look around due to how narrow the space was up higher. I would have to ease myself down just enough to look behind me, or even just to look at my feet, and then turn my head back around and slide back up into the unwelcoming space above that was trying to spit me out.

Never once in my climbing career have I actually feared for my life while on a climb…

…except on that day.

As I thrutched my way along behind The Ear, I did my best to stay as focused as possible. After what felt like an eternity of feeling around for good ledges in the direction I needed to go, I found an edge that I could actually hang on to. It was not what I wanted, but I had no other choice. I had to move onward and leave the tenuous comfort of my current stance or inevitably fall from exhaustion.

With my back against one wall and my hands pressed out against the other (similar to how one might climb up a chimney), I slowly crimped (fingertip grab) a small edge out to my left and began to shift my body weight. Looking like a mime behind a glass wall, I slid my left foot outward towards what looked like a long 1/2-inch ledge that might be good enough for me to shift onto. And it was. I released a drawn-out breath between pursed lips as I prepared to move my right hand. However, I was wedged so tightly in this space that I couldn’t turn my shoulders.

I had to slowly drop my right hand down to my waist and windmill it back up towards my left hand, akin to a slow and deliberate Peter Townsend style guitar strum.

image via Guitarworld.com

Again, success!

Last, I needed to move my right foot over and hopefully move on towards safer climbing. I began to move and – BOOM! – my foot slipped and my body started to follow…


Time slowed and my heart skipped a beat as it tried to leap from my chest to somewhere safer than behind my sternum.

Every basic human instinct in me was screaming that I was about to die…

Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

I’ve never truly had a freak out moment while climbing and this time was surprisingly no exception. I would later reflect on this moment and be amazed at how, when you have absolutely no choice but to keep moving, then you do. It’s just that simple. I don’t know too many climbers who have been in situations similar to what I experienced (mostly because its best to avoid them at all cost), but it gives you a whole new perspective on what your limits truly are.

I also noticed that my life didn’t flash before my eyes.


image via switchbacktravel.com

My left foot skipped off the tiny edge it was on and tried to follow my right foot down towards the distant valley floor. I don’t recall what I said to El Cap at that moment, it probably wasn’t nice.

But I hung on.

As adrenaline consumed my entire being, I was able to keep my body tense enough to quickly get my feet back on to that long 1/2-inch ledge. I did my best to control my breathing and refocus because even though I had saved myself from being spit out of that shadowy nook, I wasn’t done yet.

mountain

I continued as I had before, slowly looking for the next holds to shift my hands to, with my feet meticulously following along their tiny, long ledge. As I finally reached the outer part of The Ear, larger hand holds appeared above me, allowing me to grab onto something substantial as well as place gear to protect a dreaded fall. It felt like I had been encapsulated in this dark space for hours but it had probably been closer to 15 or 20 minutes. I was done! As I belly flopped onto the ledge above, there was another climbing duo taking off ahead of us (doing a variant of our climb) and the guy closest to me just looked over with a knowing, wry smirk. He must have heard my obscenities that were meant for El Cap.

I’m sure he understood.

Salathe Headwall Pitch…a couple hundred feet above The Ear

I set up our anchors and Josh promptly jugged the line up to my new ledge. (Jugging is ascending a line so you don’t have to re-climb a pitch.) He congratulated me on a pitch well done and laughingly stated that he was glad he didn’t have to climb it. (He had just climbed the Hollow Flake earlier: much more difficult than what I had done, but I appreciated his modesty,) I said thanks and told him that I’d never climb that pitch again.

Ever.

I still feel that way.

Atop the summit of El Capitan, Josh and I are happy to be done climbing, at for least a little while.