Shelf Anchor Replacement Wrap Up

The inaugural Shelf Road Anchor Replacement Weekend was a big hit.  We had a lot of volunteers and a lot of fun.  We replaced tons of mank hardware at The Bank and Cactus Cliff, and built a fence at the Bank Campground for the BLM. Anything we can do to maintain positive relations with landmanagers like the BLM is time well spent, but the main objective was hardware replacement. 

Much of the hardware at Shelf is getting to be 30 years old, so I think its really important that we take a pro-active approach to upgrading hardware whenever we can.  Fortunately there are guys like Bob D’Antonio and the American Safe Climbing Association working to make that happen.  In addition to Bob, Bruno Hanche and Derek Lawrence were instrumental in pulling off the event, providing hardware, and upgrading anchors.  Bruno in particular has spent several consecutive weekends at Shelf with Bob, working their way around the area, replacing hardware.

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present a slideshow on Saturday night.  “Untapped: The New Wave of Shelf Road Free Climbing” detailed my efforts over the last few years to push the upper end of difficulty at Shelf Road.  It was an interesting logistical challenge, since the show was at the Bank Campground, where there is no power and basically no facilities of any kind.  Trango lent me their projector, which I was able to run using a beefy Black and Decker 500 Watt inverter hot-wired directly to my car battery.  I built a movie screen by stapling a white bedsheet from Goodwill to a rectangle constructed from four 2×4’s.  It gets really windy at Shelf, so I was worried about the screen.  I brought a pile of rope and stakes to rig up the screen, but we found we could mount it quite nicely with a few screws to the new fence we constructed that morning 🙂

Once we got all the construction completed the show went off without a hitch. There was a great crowd, and I got a lot of good questions and compliments after.  Unfortunately I was too distracted to get any pictures of the show.  If anyone has any, please let me know!

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

The next morning the heads of state were already planning next year’s event.  I’d love to see this turn into an annual affair, and considering the massive number of routes at Shelf, it will realistically take many years to completely upgrade all the sketchy hardware.

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Shelf Road Slideshow and Anchor Replacement, November 9-10, 2013

I’ll be at Shelf Road the weekend of November 9-10 to help organize Bob D’Antonio’s Shelf Road Anchor Replacement Weekend.  I helped out with last year’s event at Penitente Canyon and it was a lot of fun.  The Penitente Event was very productive, but Shelf needs this much more badly in my opinion, so I was really excited when Bob contacted me.  There are a lot of really sketchy old bolts at Shelf and the crag gets tremendous amounts of traffic.  The objective will be to identify and replace any home-made bolts, damaged or excessively worn/lose bolts, and sketchy lowering anchors.  This is a great opportunity to learn the basics of bolting and bolt replacement.

Shelf Anchor Replacement Flyer

The event should be a lot of fun as well.  Bob’s pulled together free food and beer for the masses, there will be a gear giveaway, with lots of different companies throwing in gear, and I’m planning to give a slideshow on Saturday night.  The slideshow will be about my new route development at Shelf over the last few years, how I became interested in pushing the standards at Shelf and what the future holds.

You don’t need to be a bolting master to participate.  If you can turn a wrench you can help out, and even if you can’t do that, we can find something helpful for you to do.  If nothing else, drop by to say, score some free beer and enjoy a free slideshow.  Hope to see you there!

Climber’s Fest

Last weekend was the annual International Climber’s Festival in Lander, Wyoming.  I ran into a lot of old friends and made some new ones, and generally had a fantastic time chillin’ with the Trango crew.  One of the highlights of the trip was when my good friend Steve Bechtel introduced me to one of my early climbing heroes, Steve “Nitro” Petro. 

Petro on his Piece de Resistance, Fiddler on the Roof, Fremont Canyon, WY.

Among other things, Steve did the first ascent of “Fiddler on the Roof”, a ridiculous 5.13d finger crack featured in the original Masters of Stone.  Steve also starred in the training video Fingers of Steel with Tony Yaniro and Steve’s wife Lisa (nee Gnade).  This video has been somewhat overlooked in recent years but the principles discussed still hold up today.  Not to mention that the guys had a great sense of humor and a lot of fun putting it together.  After Performance Rock Climbing, FoS was the next greatest influence on my training.  Steve & I talked about his thoughts on training, the value of agression in climbing and our mutual admiration for the late great Todd Skinner.

Fingers of Steel

The first big event was the Trade Fair in City Park on Friday evening.  I was a little anxious about the 3pm-11pm timeslot on the schedule, wondering how I would make it through 8 hours.  In the end it turned out to be 8 hours of non-stop entertainment, partying and general tom-foolery thanks to the many colorful characters of the local Lander climbing scene. 

Good Times at the Trade Fair.

The Festival had a non-stop lineup of friendly contests and stupid human tricks that kept everyone thoroughly entertained.  During the lulls we met a lot of great folks while repping all of the latest Trango gear.  There was a ton of interest in the highly-anticipated Tenaya climbing shoes that Trango will begin distributing in August (expect a full-review in the next few weeks).  Considering how little info is available in the US about these it was amazing to see the buzz surrounding the Spanish brand.

Cowboys vs. Hippys; guess who won….

The first big event was the Tug O’ War, dominated by the local squad, anchored by a couple of my friends Colby Frontiero and (the legendary) Steve Bechtel.  Needless to say the team of roughnecks and Bronc busters simply destroyed the competition.  The next event was the Crate Stacking Competition.  I had never seen this in person before so I was really psyched to check it out and try to gleen the technique.  If you’ve never seen it before its worth checking out.  The best way I can think of to describe it is slacklining for engineers.  The game is simple, stack empty milk crates as high as you can.  Simple enough until you get into the double-digit range. 

BJ Tilden, master crate-stacker

Hands down the highlight of the night was the Dyno Comp, put on by the boys from 307 Bouldering.  It featured great competition and some ridiculous V-Double Digit problems.  The competitors were psyched and so was the crowd which lead to a great finish.

Dyno Comp

The big event for me on Saturday was the Tenaya shoe demo and the “Try Hard” Clinic that I taught with my new friend & Trango team-mate Chris Barlow.  Chris is a great guy and I had heard a lot about him through Mountain Project and some mutual friends, so it was great to finally meet him and do some climbing together.  Neither of us had ever taught a clinic before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a really fun time for everyone involved.  I love the unbridled enthusiasm and joy that you find with folks just discovering the sport of climbing.  It really takes me back to the simple things that first inspired me to step out into the unknown and seek out the mountain tops.  Three of the guys in our group had driven 14 hours from North Dakota just for the festival.  That kind of motivation is hard to beat.

Chris imparting wisdom during the Try Hard Clinic

Just about everyone in our group was in their first year of climbing, so we discussed some basic concepts, including Chris Barlow’s Axioms for Trying Hard (TM), and then asked each of the students what they hoped to get out of the clinic.  In my experience the best way to help someone improve is to simply watch them climb (or train) and provide direct feedback, so we jumped right into climbing.  It seemed to me that everyone in our group made significant improvment over the course of the day and I hope they can continue to benefit from whatever they took away from the clinic.

With the clinic wrapped up Chris & I drove the long way around to Sinks Canyon to meet the rest of the Trango crew (Adam and Brendon) for some cool-down laps in the Killer Cave.  Chris & I each took a run on the incomparable “Bush Doctor”, then set up for a quick photo shoot on “Busload of Faith”, complete with a healthy amount of “You’re a monkey Derek” and other classic Zoolander lines. 

Iver demonstrating his improved footwork on the Hot Tamale Wall

Unfortunately the wardrobe department failed to deliver any bright t-shirts to the crag, as we were all clothed in our official Team Trango shirts.  Don’t get me wrong; the shirts are sweet, but the speckled-black color is not “right” for quality photos.  After some “not it” back and forth and some good-natured heckling, Chris graciously offered to run back to the car to grab an E-Grips shirt that was the perfect color.  Probably not what Chris expected when he joined the team, but we tried our best to convince him it would be great training for his upcoming Bugaboos trip.  He made the round trip in just about 10 minutes; a super human effort–Thanks Chris!

Once the photos were in the can I headed home for a climbing appointment in Denver the next day.  It was a great festival and I had a blast; really looking forward to next year.

Los Hermanos de la Penitente

Last weekend Kate, Logan & I headed down to the beautiful San Luis Valley to participate in the inaugural Penitente Canyon Anchor Replacement & Trail Repair weekend.  The weekend was a huge success.  Despite a questionable weather forecast, over 40 climbers made the trek, some from as far as Albuquerque, NM and Boulder, CO.  The BLM was there to organize the trail and campground maintenance, and the legendary Bob D’Antonio directed all of the anchor replacement.

The legendary Bob D, rallying the troops.

For those who don’t know, Bob was one of the key protagonists of Sport Climbing in the US, and is certainly the leading figure in the history of sport climbing in Colorado, having established hundreds, if not thousands of routes over the last 30 years.  If you’ve been sport climbing in Colorado or New Mexico, there’s a very good chance you’ve clipped one of Bob D’s bolts.  Like most of Sport Climbing’s founders, Bob was quite an accomplished trad climber, establishing numerous first ascents and early repeats of significant testpieces in Eldo, The Gunks and elsewhere, but unlike many of his peers, Bob had the vision to see the potential in the faces, and the courage to break from the herd.  Well into his 50’s, Bob’s still climbing within a few letter grades of his personal best, and has plans to climb 5.13 again this summer.  Guys like Bob are an inspiration to the rest of us!

Kate enjoying some classic slabbin on “What The Hey”

Anyway, we showed up Friday morning to do some laid back climbing.  Penitente is one of the most beautiful sport crags in the country, with amazing volcanic rock that forms striking features.  Its always a pleasure to climb in the canyon, though at just over 3 hours form Denver, we don’t make it down there too often.  Friday night was our first night in a tent with Logan.  It actually turned out pretty well.  He woke up about 5 times, but we all managed to get just barely enough sleep to make it through the next day.

Resurfacing the entrance area

Saturday began with several hours of trail work and campground/picnic are improvement to help out the BLM.  Its always nice to be able to demonstrate to land managers that climbers are a positive influence on the areas they frequent, and nothing says it better than showing up to offer some free, enthusiastic labor (and two kegs of beer!).  The BLM guys were great, had a good sense of humor about their relationship with the user community, and were extremely grateful for our help.  We spread several tons of gravel around the Gazebo area and the bathrooms, planted new shrubs in several restoration areas, repaired the washed-out trail from the upper campground to the Gazebo, pruned some of the overgrown trails in the canyon, and resurfaced many of the tent pads at the campgrounds. 

After a hearty lunch of free brats, Bob and fellow Mountain Project Administrator Mike Howard gave a quick tutorial on bolt replacement.  About five of us had bolting experience (and drills), so we rounded up groups of novices for some hands-on learning.  Everyone was eager to get involved and learn what goes into properly bolting a route.  I took a great group out (Mike, Adam & Jen), under specific orders from Bob to retrofit Sheer Strength & Sheer Lunacy.  Unfortunately everywhere I turned I saw hardware that needed replacing, so we got a quite distracted.  Thank goodness Kate was willing to watch Logan by herself so I could get as much work done as possible.  We replaced the anchor bolts of The Serpent, then replaced every bolt on Persophone, right niext door.  As we were packing up to head to the Sheer Wall, a pair of climbers asked for help repairing Bucket Slave, so we moved over there to help out.  They already had a rope up, and the route only needed new hangers, so I gave them some hardware and a quick run-dopwn on what to do. 

Sketchy hardware on Sheer Lunacy

We finally made it to the sheer wall, and I decided since we were doing two routes it would be quicker just to come in from the top on rappel.  I’m glad I did.  Sheer Strength was the first, and that was a piece of cake.  We removed several feet of unsightly chain and replaced it with a nice cammo’d ring anchor, and replaced all of the lead bolts.  Last but not least was Sheer Lunacy, and we were appaled by what we found.  I brought Mike up with me so I could show him up close how to replace a bolt.  Mike began unscrewing the first bolt and it came out after only a few turns.  Mike called up that he had broken the bolt off, so we had Adam send up the drill to put in a new hole.  While I was drilling Mike broke the second bolt too, in the same place.  ‘That’s odd’ I thought.  After closer inspection, neither bolt was broken, that was the entire bolt, 3/4″ long!  And easily 1/4″ of that was taken up by the bolt hanger, so less than half an inch of shaft was in the rock!  This thing was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for an unlucky soul to fall at the wrong place.  I was totally shocked.  I’ve never seen such sketchy bolting in my entire career.  But, that’s what this weekend was all about, and I hope that in addition to scoring some free beer and SWAG, we were able to prevent a few accidents.

Sheer Lunacy with fresh hardware in place

It started to drizzle just as we were placing the last bolts, so we headed back to the parking lot.  The party had already started, and we were all psyched to indulge in some great free beer from San Luis Brewery and 3 Barrel Brewery.  There was a pretty good, local Bluegrass Band (complete with Jug Bass), great food, and of course, a SWAG raffle.

Logan getting his groove on at the after-party

The raffle is always the highlight, but this one of the best I’ve every been to.  Trango, Black Diamond, Petzl, OP, Arc Teryx, Wolverine, R&I and Falcon went all out.  Everyone who attented one at least one prize, and many folks got two.  There were free shirts for everyone, courtesy of the AAC, and everyone got a free copy of Rock & Ice, and plenty of stickers courtesy of Trango, BD & Petzl. 

Thanks to everyone who showed up, and here’s hoping this becomes an annual event!

Logan enjoying a sweet stick he found at the campground