Bouldering in Joshua Tree

Bouldering in Joshua Tree
Ronnie 15 feet off deck on the classic White Rastafarian.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Happenings pt. 2

This latest adventure started two weeks ago.

Two years ago I put together an adaptive climbing clinic at the Amputee Coalition Youth Camp. One of the campers at the time, Corey, a below the knee amputee, attended my clinic and got hooked on climbing. Fast forward two years and he is now in college north of Atlanta and climbing avidly. We reconnected and I flew up to the Southeast to take him on his first outdoor climbing trip.
Me, Corey, and Brandon

It has been really rewarding to see some of my efforts in the past bringing forth tomorrow's generation of adaptive climbers.

Corey had his eyes set on one of my past projects Fat Cat (V5), one of the pristine climbs that the Stone Fort has to offer.

He worked out all the moves in a strong effort, but was unable to link together for the send. I am sure he will be back soon to take the rig down.

Overall we had a blast and just climbed around on the endless amounts of classics the boulder field has to offer. We were able to connect on some of the challenges on climbing with one leg, and share our similar experiences. I have made many friends through climbing that I am proud to know, and I think it is a safe bet to say I made another friend for life on this trip as well.

On Mizzen Mast, a long never tried classic. 
Part two of the trip was the start of my California adventure. I flew into LA to meet up with my friend Andrew Chao, and Damon Corso, a professional photographer and videographer out of the area.

We drove to Bishop for a quick 3 day trip to experience the amazing climbing that the area has to offer.

The view of the Sierra's from our campground.
Bishop is distinct in the sense that it has 7-8 different areas of established climbing, all on varying kinds of rock and terrain. Our first day focused around the rock in the canyon of the volcanic tableland at the Happy Boulders.

The Happy Boulders provide a very gymnastic kind of climbing venue, and are an absolute blast to climb on. We toured through all of the classics V0-V4 even finding some gems off the beaten path.

One of my favorite climbs of the day was the towering I am Leaving for Constantinople, Tonight (V0) on the rim of the canyon. One of the most enjoyable moves I have ever done leads to a committing top out 30 ft above the pads.

The Happy Boulders
Scoping out Leaving for Constantinople Tonight.

On day two after getting shut down on the committing top out of Strength in Numbers (V5) at the Sad Boulders, we decided to go have an adventure. The guidebook touted Church of Lost and Found (V1) at the Sherwin Plateau to be world class. We made the hike from Bishop, and drove 7.2 miles on dirt trails (almost destroying the rental car in the process :-) until we were completely alone in the high wilderness. A short hike by foot led to the rim of the Owen's river gorge canyon and the best rock climb I think I have ever done.

Church of Lost and Found
The photos do none of this justice.

The scenery was second to none and we left with one of my most memorable climbing experiences. We finished day two with an awesome evening session at the Happy Boulders, ticking off two projects from the day before, Solarium (V4) and Cue Ball (V4).

Scenery at the Sherwin Plateau.
Down climb on Solarium (V4)

Day Three we were refreshed from a mellow day two and made our way to the field that Bishop is famous for, the Buttermilks. We toured tons of classics and tried not to get blown away by the 40+ mile an hour wind. In the ever unpredictable weather it went from Sunny and nice, to hurricane force winds, to snowing by the end of the day. The outdoors is a powerful thing.

Damo on Saigon (V6)


Lastly we headed back to LA to get ready for our 2nd annual adaptive climbing clinic in Joshua Tree which I have described in a separate post.

We spent our last day of climbing on easter sunday at Joshua Tree, mostly having a mellow day (by comparison). Our agenda revolved around three boulder problems The Chube (V2), Slashface (V3), and Satellite Left (V3). All of these climbs were in different areas and in total we hiked about 6-8 miles in the SoCal desert.

Slashface (V3 R)
Topping out the Chube (V2)

I managed to take down one nemesis from last year, The Chube (V2). Finally managing to press out the crux top out. Unfortunately I was not strong enough (and did not have enough skin left!) to take down Slashface for the second year in a row. I also got shut down by the terrifying last move of Satellite left, and after a couple of nasty falls decided that I was emotionally drained from everything and threw in the towel. Damon's girlfriend, Crystalyn and his sister Larissa hid some easter eggs for us and we relaxed and hiked out in the sunset to mark the end of this awesome trip.

Group shot on the Illicit Sweetie Boulder
Hiking to Slashface


I was really lucky to be able to even climb this trip.....I had torn a pulley in my right middle finger about five weeks prior. Thankfully I was able to rehab it and it was on the mend for this trip. It was a blessing in disguise because rather than focusing on difficulty I was truly able to enjoy the climbing and re focus on the journey this time around.

I had been passing by "easy" climbs at Stone fort for years now, after doing them wondering after the fact why I had never climbed it years ago. The journey is what truly makes climbing special, the people you meet, how you get there, and all the memories in between. I still have my sights set on big goals ahead, but need to remember to take a step back and soak it all in every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring 2012 part 1

This spring has turned into a complete whirlwind! So many things have happened that it has been hard to completely wrap my head around. To kick things off I got my prosthetics certification! I am really excited to be a full blown professional. It has been a journey that has been six years in the making since I started college! I have been practicing for the past year and a half and I absolutely love what I do and am blessed to work for the best company in the business. 

I am officially in the midst of our next project, documenting my journey to become the first amputee to climb the V10 bouldering grade. It will be a journey that hopefully comes to fruition over the next year! 

My first climbing trip on the agenda this spring was to Hueco Tanks. I was feeling strong from all my training and my goal was to tick off my first V9. Over the four day trip I was able to get on four different V9's, coming agonizingly close on all of them but going home with the send on none! Hueco has a very dynamic climbing style which seems to suit me perfectly. It is almost like a rock playground with heinous moves in-between decent holds. If you can crank down hard you can send hard at Hueco. I was also able to check out some potential V10's while I was there. The biggest difficulty with this whole project has been finding a climb that is actually going to make sense to project. I realized that doing my first V10 is a huge undertaking, and having a climb that is thousands of miles away from me does not help my cause any, especially when I only get to try it for a couple of days before taking off again. I did manage to send my second V8 second try, the sit start to New Religion. Along with ticking off some other classics while in the area. I can't wait until my next trip back, too many projects, not enough time!

After doing some thinking after the Hueco Trip, I decided that the climb that I have the best chance for success is right here in the Southeast. This fall I managed to do my first V8 called Harvest Moon. It is a really powerful project and a true gem of a rock climb. It has a sit start, that adds 3-4 difficult moves into the stand, that clocks in right at V10. Here is some bad iPhone video of me sending the stand this December! 

So long story short I was supposed to head up to the southeast to start trying the moves on Harvest Moon sit, then I picked up the first bad finger injury of my career. I thought I was taking it easy, but I guess I needed to give my body some more time to recover after Hueco Tanks, and ended up tearing my A4 pulley in my right middle finger. That effectively ended my spring climbing season. 

Its funny how some things are a blessing in disguise......right around that time we moved from a 5,000 square foot facility at work into 22,000 square feet, officially making us one of the largest prosthetics facilities in the country under one roof. The week after that I moved from staying with a friend into my own apartment. As all of this was going on I had two speaking engagements to plan for along with adaptive climbing clinics in New York City and Joshua Tree National Park, all tied in with a trip to Venezuela for my grandma's 90th birthday! I think that if I would have had the pressure of training at a high level also that I would have been on the verge of collapse! So while it is never fun being injured I have to say it may have been for the better this time!

Both of my speaking engagements went well, my grandma's 90th birthday was a blast and a great opportunity to reconnect with family. The adaptive climbing clinic at Brooklyn Boulders in NYC was a huge success! We were able to introduce 31 people with disabilities ranging from Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Cord Injury, Upper and Lower extremity amputation, vision impaired among others to their first climbing experience over two days! NYC has a vibrant adaptive community and it was inspiring to get the opportunity to work with them. Check out some video done by Brooklyn Boulders here!

Part two of this post coming your way later this week!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Joshua Tree Recap 2012

I am excited to announce that this year's Joshua Tree event went extremely well. We set up at the Indian Cove section of the park at an area known as the Amphitheatre. The setting was grand and we were completely encircled by the towering formations of rock that Joshua Tree is known for. 

We were lucky to have nine participants with disabilities join us for the day! The whole group meshed well and the not only was there a lot of great climbing going on throughout the day but a lot of camaraderie as well. The climbing was mixed from some lower angle face climbing to some intense scrambling. Participants were able to learn that every part of your body is a useful climbing tool as they worked their way up the 50 ft. walls. 

One of our participants, Corey Reed, aside from missing his right leg below the knee, is also severely visually impaired as well. It was super impressive to see him use his natural physical talents as well as his sharpened senses to make quick work of all five of the top ropes that were set up. 

Another participant, Anna, missing her leg at the hip due to cancer, found that sometimes the easiest way up is not always the straight forward way. After some difficulty on the first climb, Anna ascended the majority of her second climb backwards! The awesome thing about climbing is that there is no one set way to do things and the same climb can interpreted a million different ways. When she got to the top she spent an hour there enjoying the view. 

We were lucky to have some great weather, spend time with all of our amazing participants and volunteers, and be in a grand setting like Joshua Tree. In between climbs friendships were being made and solidified, and everybody was hiking around enjoying the day and exploring the endless amounts of killer views and scenery that Joshua Tree has to offer. 

Disability is only a state of mind, and I think we all learned that you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to, no matter how intimidating it might seem. 

Thank you to our title sponsors Athletes w/ Disabilities Network, Inner Passage Guiding Service, Black Diamond and Evolve Sports and Design as well as our other sponsors prAna and Mountain Khakis.