Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bolt War of One

Even an adventure sports generalist, as Kurt describes himself, can only ski, ice climb and winter camp so long before the winter days away from rock climbing take their toll and the mind drifts to self-examination and the big questions. On the other hand, Kurt is not one to back away from climbing's tough issues: sticky rubber, chalk, swami belts, 11mm ropes and ovals on sport routes, hip belays and lycra are among the topics he has challenged us with over recent years.

In the following meditation, Kurt concludes a discussion he began in this blog in the comments section of the "Labor Day" post: a bolt war with himself. Following is the interior monologue of a man divided, except not.

A Bolt War of One
Kurt Krueger

I'm using the Royal Robbins first ascent principle (see his basic/advanced Rock Craft) where the person doing the first ascent gets to decide everything about the route. I already have used it to declare that all repeat ascents of my and Dwight's routes in Butte have to be done with a dog present. I now plan on using the principle for declaring a bolt war on the route Give and Take, which I opened to climbing earlier this year. Therefore I think I will chop the single bolt I placed on Give and Take. Then I think I will replace it. Of course, the bolt users won't know whose side to take since I will be on both sides. In fact, even I won't know who's side I'm on.

We are breaking new ground here. The anti-bolt climber could show support by skipping the bolt when they climb the route, though they would have to wait for the bolt to be replaced after it was chopped before being able to skip it as a demonstration of bolt-free solidarity.

On October 20th, following the September first ascent of Give and Take by Jesse and a Sept 24th comment by me, I posted this update in the "Labor Day" entry: "I just thought I'd mention I'm winning the Bolt War. I heard from a reliable source at the Missoulian that the estate of Joe Tasker and Peter Broadman are raising funds to send a couple of climbers to help chop the bolt. You know how the Brits are about bolts. I also heard from the Safe Bolting Association that they are willing to donate a second bolt if we want to break up the pitch with a hanging belay. Then we wouldn't have to chop the first bolt since it would be a belay bolt and not a protection bolt. Interesting idea and I will get back to you later. - Kurt"

This, of course, was fabricated, though it read well.

But as I thought more about bolt wars, I thought about the advantage I had with having my own bolt war. The number one advantage was instant communication. Usually after 2 or 3 weeks of chopping and replacing bolts the opposing parties might get together and then compromise. At that time, everyone agrees we have to "save the rock". Not having that problem - and since it's my bolt - I can use advance conflict resolution. I will also save the rock and make it easier on myself.

In the Fire era of the 1980s, Kurt displayed his staunch anti-bolting ethic by packing a pony keg to the crag (the limb weighed almost as much as the keg) and...

...securing it at a hanging belay. Not a single bolt was placed or clipped.

My bolt war will go like this: I will just put up a note at the base of the route for when the bolt has been "chopped and is not there." I won't chop it but you won't be able to use it. Then when I've "replaced the bolt" I will take down the note.

Be warned, however, that if we have people clipping the bolt when it is in its "chopped" state, I will fill up the hanger with a large nut and machine bolt. So please do the right thing: Read the note and adjust your ascent to match the route's ethics. I know you will.

To help you plan your trips, here is the schedule for the 2011 climbing season:

Bolt ChoppedBolt Replaced

On 6/30/2011 (my birthday) we will declare the bolt war over, and that Kurt Krueger has won. We will declare we have saved the rock. We will also declare that to pacify the trad climbing enthusiasts, in the future we'll have to bolt all climbs ground up. (Note: I'm not sure about this one - I'm going to have to talk to myself and get back to you - or me).

Kurt demonstrates a combination of strong pro-climbing-dog and pro-bolting ethics by employing his sturdy companions, Gracie and Bucky, to pack anchor chains to the crag. "Maximize your bolting efficiency and get as much hardware in as possible," might be his maxim

The next bolt war will be initiated by a climber with a split personality. That will make it much easier to kept track of things.

Coming attractions: I'm thinking of bringing my ice axe when we start working on "Because It's There." If it's February, I see no ethical issue. If it's June, well, I'll have to check with myself on that one too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The snow is deep, it's December and it's cold, conditions that make it easy to demotivate. So here's an article written by Michael Moore, reprinted by permission, plus a couple of pictures to remind us there's always psyche to be had, in climbing and in life.

Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla
5.15a at Age 48 more...

The Middle Ages: Trying hard is all there is

The other day in the gym, I saw a guy wearing a shirt with a logo: "There is no trying in football. There is only success."

Understood as a motivating witticism for college kids, perhaps the statement stands, as long as you don't think about it too long. Should you - and I have - it's absurd.
Trying is all there is. Success surely might be the end result, but trying is the path. Earlier this year, I even thought of making my own T-shirt, one I could wear while climbing, lifting weights or mountain biking. I didn't do it, finally, but my shirt would have said this: "The Year of Trying Hard."

The reason I didn't need the shirt as a motivator was a magazine article I keep close at hand. It's a story about training for rock climbing, and it breaks down a variety of training programs, then makes some recommendations about how you should train given your age, which the magazine helpfully broke down by decades.

In my case, I went straight to the section dubbed "50s." The other sections, for folks in their 20s and 30s, had motivating headlines like "Strong as Ever" and "The Time to Send." When climbers use the word "send," we really mean ascend, as in succeeding on a route. Thus, the route is sent. But I will come back to that in a bit.

For the 50s, the headline read "Maintenance." The piece then went on at length about how our 50s are a time when our bodies begin to fail us. Yes, you can still perform at a high level, but success is often based on technique and wisdom rather than strength. So what you folks in your 50s should be doing is training to maintain your current level of fitness. Even that wouldn't be easy, the magazine suggested, as the body starts a precipitous rate of decline in the Middle Ages.

I was not amused. I'll be danged if I'm ready for maintenance, I thought. So I talked the article over with some of my climbing buddies, several in their 50s as well, and we decided we'd prove the magazine wrong. Thus, the Year of Trying Hard.

At first, I thought only in terms of climbing, and I set some goals for myself in terms of climbing grades I'd try to reach. But as I set to work on those goals, I found a sympathetic resonance in everything else I did. Some things were obvious, of course. Weightlifting helps with nearly everything, including climbing, so it made sense to push harder in the weight room. Mountain biking is great for cardio fitness, which never hurts when you're humping a 35-pound climbing pack a couple miles uphill to the crags. So I pushed the bike, putting in extra miles and elevation gain when I got the chance.

Although my fitness level was high, my "maintenance" body responded as the year moved on, rising to the challenge of harder climbs, longer rides, heavier weights. By summer's end, I was climbing at a level I hadn't achieved in nearly 30 years.

As my physical self prospered, I found my mind carried along. At work, I found myself thinking about sentences - their structure, their flow, their sound - more deeply. Could I "send" the story more fully? Outside the office, I found myself working harder on my friendships, an area where I have been historically slothful, expecting them to prosper simply because they exist. I found myself in conversations that dug down deep to the core of what it meant to climb in the mountains, to risk life and limb, to be a partner in such a serious undertaking.

To risk hyperbole, I found myself laid bare to myself. If I really tried, what was I capable of? What could I be better at? The answer, of course, was alarming but simple: everything.

A month ago, the job of city editor at this newspaper came open, right in the midst of the Year of Trying Hard. Truth be told, my work life as a reporter was good, inspiring and busy, but also manageable and easy going. To move up meant more responsibility, including the overwhelming responsibility for the workplace sanity of others. A part of me said, rather loudly, "Don't do it!"

But as I thought it over, I found myself once again looking at the climbing story that encouraged "maintenance."

Maybe there's a time when maintenance will be good enough. That time is not now. So here in the Year of Trying Hard, I welcomed the job like I welcomed harder climbs, with open arms and heart, mindful that life itself hangs in the balance.

Lee Sheftel
5.14a at Age 59 more...

Gray Thompson
Crushing at 70 more...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Plastic Season

Posted by Ken Turley

After mild fall weather that's allowed us to climb outside well into November, it looks like winter has finally arrived in western Montana. For many of my climbing friends, this signals the time to retrieve the skis from garage rafters, dig out crampons and ice tools, or dust off the hockey stick and put rock climbing on hold for a while. For others like me, the cold spells a shift in focus away from natural rock toward serious training, and that means changing modes, coming indoors and embracing artificial holds.

Gym climbing can certainly be an acquired taste. Those whose main enjoyment centers on movement over natural lines in pristine settings can seldom even stomach it. A friend of mine used to say climbing in the gym was like having sex with a plastic doll (a remark that later turned into the route name "Plastic Doll" given to the little 2-bolt diversion on Mulkey's Domino block).

For me, the key has always been to remember one basic thing: It's a gym! In the same way you use weights to strengthen your quads for skiing, or endure spinning sessions to improve your weekend trail runs, gym climbing benefits your performance outside. Climbing on plastic may be truck stop coffee to burr-ground, french-pressed, shade-grown brew, but if you gotta have your fix, then you make the most of what's available.

I approach boulder problems and routes in the gym as a related, but distinct activity. It's certainly not as divorced from climbing movement as, say, weight training, but it still differs from the techniques and skills required of natural rock. For example, I can usually onsight 5.11c outside, but an 11c gym route will take me 2 or 3 sessions before I can climb it without hangs. By reminding myself that it's a gym 11c, I avoid the frustration I used to feel by not performing at the same level inside as out. Working mid-11s is my current standard in the gym. Onsighting mid-11s is my current standard on rock.

Climbing-specific indoor training is not just about routes or boulder problems, but also includes hangboards, campus boards and other complementary devices. There is no shortage of examples of the gains that can be made pursuing a combination of these off-season activities. As is well known, Wolfgang Gullich invented the now-ubiquitous campus board as a means of training specifically for what would be the world's first 9a (5.14d) Action Directe, a notoriously powerful climb that's only seen 13 repeats in the 19 years since Gullich established it. If you want to get psyched to train this winter for your own project, watch Obsession featuring UK climber Rich Simpson as he works toward Action Directe's 6th ascent (5th repeat) in October, 2005.

Before Action Directe, Ben Moon's climb Hubble was the world's hardest at 8c+ (5.14c). Scottish climber Malcolm Smith entered the spotlight when, at age 18, he got the second ascent. What's more remarkable is how Smith trained for the climb. Jerry Moffatt, in his autobiography Revelations, reports that Smith built a small training wall in his bedroom with a replica of Hubble's moves. At that time, the hardest route Smith had climbed was 7c+ (5.13a). Writes Moffatt,
Over one winter he trained hard on his board. After [that] he came to Raven Tor and redpointed Hubble. It was an incredible achievement, going from 7c+ to 8c+ over a winter.

The highly-recommended short Splinter will gave you a taste of what Malcolm Smith is about. Smith also talks in greater detail about training on a small board here.

More recently, Dave MacLeod, also Scottish, has become well-known for his first ascents of bold trad climbs such as Rhapsody, To Hell and Back, and Echo Wall. Each features runout 5.14 climbing above sparse gear where a fall has dire consequences. With his penchant for non-bolted climbs located in mountain settings or on remote sea cliffs, one might assume MacLeod is a traditional purist who avoids climbing on plastic. But as can be seen in his Online Climbing Coach blog, personal blog, and book Nine out of Ten Climbers Make the Same Mistake, he is one of the most studied and analytical climbers of current times and in fact dedicates many hours to serious indoor sessions. MacLeod's training equipment has often been at the very extreme of simplicity. Much of his conditioning for Rhapsody was done on a single campus board rung attached above a doorframe in his apartment as shown in this video excerpt from the film E11. He has since switched to a home wall located close to Scotland's Ben Nevis. But as the following video shows, it's still only a guest room's worth in size.

To see the kind of sport climbing power and endurance a wall like that can build, have a look at MacLeod firing the second ascent of a horizontal 8c (5.14b) roof in Spain.

The inspiration I draw from climbers like Smith and MacLeod is the way they propelled themselves to the top of the sport by making do with whatever was available. If a single 1x2 finger board in an apartment, or a bedroom replica of the crux of the world's hardest climb was enough for them, then my own basement woody and hangboard, not to mention access to an entire university climbing gym, should certainly allow me to achieve much more modest gains.

Despite the plentiful evidence of its benefits, there still seems a reluctance among U.S. climbers to engage in sport-specific training. Chris Sharma has famously said that he doesn't train, he just climbs. This echoes a tradition in the culture of American climbing. During the 70s and 80s climbers who formally trained and practiced aside from doing pullups were looked upon with suspicion. Tony Yaniro, whose approach to climbing was well ahead of its time, was criticized for preparing too seriously for many of his groundbreaking ascents such as Lake Tahoe's Grand Illusion (5.13b), which, in 1979, was reportedly the world's hardest climb.

But times may be changing for American climbers. Pro athletes like Paul Robinson and Jon Siegrist, both in their early 20s, show evidence of a new trend. Robinson, who is one of the world's strongest boulderers, gives one example of gaining considerable fitness while recovering from a broken ankle by working out on a single hangboard in his parent's garage. Robinson's workout eventually appeared in Rock and Ice No. 178 Strength issue under the heading 10-Minute Hangboard Routine.

Siegrist, who emerged full-on into the national scene about a year ago, has been quickly dispatching our country's hardest sport climbs. Siegrist warms up by onsighting routes that are my dream projects, like Smith's Darkness at Noon. In his Sept. 12th blog entry announcing that he'd done his first 5.14d, Tommy Caldwell's Kryptonite, Siegrist says,

A number of years ago, while training for my first 13d, I built a campus board in my parents' garage. I dragged an old cushion from a patio chair underneath my feet and I cranked laps on those dusty Metolius rungs til my fingers gave up. On that campus board I inscribed '9a or bust' and dreamt of one day achieving such an astonishing difficulty.

Of course, it isn't necessary to look only at pro climbers for examples of climbers who take training seriously. It's no coincidence that our top local climbers devote time to indoor workouts. I've seen Scotty in the UM gym climbing non-stop roped endurance laps. Kyle routinely works and sends every single problem in the bouldering cave. And Levi just posted this summary of his training since the weather turned, in which he writes, "Lots of pulling on the woody [and] lifting weights, 5 days a week, like a job."

Examples are everywhere of the gains we can achieve by dedicating ourselves to a season of indoor training. For any of us who want to push toward our limits and reach new levels of performance, there should be no shortage of motivation to get after it during the dark, cold months of winter. Here are the goals I'll be working on over the next few months:
  • Increase my max pullup count to 20.
  • Boulder V5 in the UM cave.
  • Climb Gym 5.12 routes in 2 to 3 sessions.
  • Do the hard 4x4 on my own wall.
  • Narrow the gap between my outside and inside performance.

Personally, these goals are as significant as any I've set for outside climbing. They'll also be every bit as rewarding to achieve. I can't imagine being bored or lacking the enthusiasm to pursue them just because the setting isn't on natural rock. In fact, I'm super psyched to get started. It'll be a tall order to reach them all by spring. I'd better hope for a long winter.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canadians and October Climbing

Ken's Canadian friends Mariana and James stopped by for a week's visit mid-October. They are making a farewell tour through North America before moving to New Zealand. The climbing portion of their trip included stops in Ten Sleep, Missoula and Smith Rock.

Mariana and James have been following the blog from the beginning, and it was great to finally give them a tour of the North Rim in person. It was a busy weekend day up there, which, we are learning, is becoming fairly common. Here are some pictures from Sunday, October 10th. All images except Ali the Dog courtesy of James.

Tick Farm Climbers

James Leading No Dick Tick

Ali the Dog - Smallest Hiker Award

The Ledge Beneath Tiger Stripe Wall

Climber on Ticked Off

First moves of a long journey
Dane Scott beginning QED-MF

Zoe and Ken

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Guide Is Available

We are excited to announce the 2nd edition of the Mill Creek North Rim guide! An electronic version is available for viewing and download at this link. We will also maintain a permanent link in the sidebar on the right.

The new edition contains all 20 routes currently established at the North Rim. There are 23 pitches of climbing with grades ranging from 5.7 to 5.12b.

We continue to be psyched by the popularity of the crag. Thanks to everyone who's hiked up the trail and checked it out. We hope the new guide serves you well!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ten Sleep Challenge

Center El Shinto, French Cattle Ranch Sector

Ten Sleep, Wyoming was certainly the place to go this summer, and not just for the Missoula crew who made repeat trips. Seems other Montana locales were also driving to the Big Horns and pulling on the Dolomite.

Local Ten Sleep climber Ali Rainey posted an end-of-summer top 10 report on the Petzl blog. In it, she had this to say,
6. Bozeman climbers--wow. They are STRONG! I’ve never seen so many peeps who can throw down 5.13+ so quickly who aren’t from Boulder or Salt Lake City. It’s not a big city (about 40,000 people). I’m impressed. I wish I knew all of their names to list, but I don’t. Suffice it to say, watch out for the Bozeman climbing crowd.

If ever there was a challenge, there it is! Come on, Missoula climbers. The winter training season is just around the corner. Get your psyche on, get strong, and next year, it's on to Ten Sleep to represent!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lost and Found

A couple of items have been reported found.

Found at the North Rim climbs: a nice pair of sunglasses. Thanks to Scott for reporting these.

Found in Blodgett, Parking Lot Wall on "Graupel Wars:" a nice draw. Thanks to Brian and Carlene for this one.

If either are yours, send an email to millcreeknorthrim at gmail with a detailed description of the item and we'll hook you up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lolo Concierge Treatment

Submitted by Ken Turley

I feel I've climbed my share up in Lolo over the past 7 years. In reality though, my experience has been pretty minimal, limited to repeat trips to Elk, Tor and Braxton. A look in the Falcon guide shows the granite domes have a lot more to offer. And that's only part of the story. In the last 3 years the Lolo scene has experienced a resurgence in development, resulting in a significant increase in routes and a huge burst in new boulder problems, all thanks to the tireless efforts and psych of Levi, Dean, Kelsey and others.

Taking advantage of a break in Levi's schedule, I was able to hook up with the man himself this past Sunday. Our goal was to view some of the new routes and boulders I'd never seen, and maybe get me on one or two.

After topping off the tank and the cooler in town, we drove to vicinity of Tor rock, making a detour onto a side road for a peek at a couple of lesser domes not in the guidebook. Here I got to inspect two new bolted 12s on Roll Rock featuring bouldery starts that I'll definitely add to my list for a return visit. Levi also directed my attention to a shady outcrop through the trees across the road. Up-slope from a mountain stream sits a new project bolted by Scotty. Once Sparkered and company send, hard 5.13 sport will be firmly established in Lolo.

Back on Granite Creek Road, we headed beyond Tor to mile marker 6 and a gated logging road. This is the approach to the Random Events wall (page 70 in the Falcon guide). I'd heard quite a lot about the high quality and unique pockets of the routes here, especially Cappuccino Cowboy. More and more it seems, this route is spoken of with high regard, as a must-do 5.12 in our area. It has even been blogged about by Levi and other climbers much stronger than me.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk in to the wall. The first part is on a logging road, and the remainder on a casual climbers' path with minimal elevation gain. The wall is 70 to 80 feet high and located in a shady, healthy forest with live water nearby. The aspect is slightly to fairly overhanging and features a crazy assortment of sparse pockets, from deep monos to killer jugs.

Random Events Wall - Steep and Shady

Three routes are listed in the guide: Green Eggs and Ham, Cappuccino Cowboy and the Lorax. We started on Green Eggs and Ham (10c). I headed up on lead and quickly received a proper welcome when I fell at the 2nd bolt after being far too casual on some balance moves up a thin spine. The rest was fun and varied climbing with a mid section of bomber gear to a bulging bolted finish on large pockets.

We then tossed a rope down the Lorax. Levi demoed the beta with its very specific mono and 2-finger pocket sequences. I followed and really enjoyed the moves. I then lowered to the start of a new Levi line, the Once-ler, which busts out right from around the 2nd bolt of the Lorax. The route features a distinct crux with techy feet and sequence to a positive lefthand mono, and then heads up a series of powerful moves through pinches, pockets and blocks. Both these routes are high-quality, challenging climbs.

The Lorax seems in the 11b/c range. The Once-Ler probably comes in at 11d, but only if you have it sussed. On-sight, who knows! I was only the 3rd or 4th climber to attempt it, so a consensus grade still awaits.

Next I had a choice between Cappuccino Cowboy and a new Levi-Dean route, Crystal Concierge, both 5.12. I knew Cappuccino Cowboy would be a project route for me, so opted to try my hand at the striking Crystal Concierge. This climb shares a few opening holds with Cowboy, then heads right into an obvious overhanging corner system. The crux involves getting yourself established in the white corner above a ledge. Levi again demoed for me, cruising to the anchors. I tied in, executed an improbable mono "undercling" in the crux prelude, then settled in to finding alternate crux beta to Levi's desperate press-to-gaston move. Once you establish in the white corner, it's not even close to being over. Thin, delicate stemming leads to a rest jug. From there you climb a pumpy overhaning layback crack, execute a groping exit, recover, then climb an aired-out, looming headwall to finish. The climb can spit you off eye-level with the anchors. It's full value from the first move to the last. I made it up with many hangs, sweating and perfectly spent. I'll definitely be back soon to attempt a red point.

Levi offered 12b for Crystal Concierge. It felt nails hard to me on my intro burn, but I can see that it could level out at that grade once I get the moves dialed. It's worth noting that, as the harder of the two, Cappuccino Cowboy must certainly be sandbagged in the Falcon guide at 12a.

Opening pockets of Cappuccino Cowboy

With daylight dwindling, we headed back to the truck and drove around toward Elk Rock where I got to see the Euro Boulder and the Beautiful Boulder, two prime examples of the numerous new blocs in the area.

Many thanks to Levi for taking the time to show me around. And huge props to all involved for the mountains of careful and mindful work that has added considerably to Missoula climbing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Season Turning

Autumn colors are creeping down the canyon, and that means climbing's best time of year is about here, the aptly named "Sendtember."

On that note, props go out to Jesse Selwyn for getting an onsight first ascent of Give and Take as reported in comments here. We're always psyched to receive comments on the blog, as well as news of any sends you'all are doing at the North Rim. Thanks again for the report, Jesse!

Kurt, who opened Give and Take, put a tentative 5.10d rating on it. As Kurt said, "Seemed close enough." Dane, who tried it quickly during an early t.r. session, thinks it could be 5.11. We'd welcome any feedback on the grade.

Li'l Crack 5.7, Give and Take 5.10d

In other activity, Dane and Ken made it out for the afternoon on Sunday, arriving about 2pm. It was bright sun, cloudless, and pretty warm, but a breeze kept things fairly nice. By about 5pm temps dropped and it got quite comfortable. We focused on the Upper Tier routes, climbing No Drama Obama and taking a couple spins each on Proof of Concept. These are two fine routes, and for those who are seeking Tempest-like climbing, they come highly recommended. Proof is rated 11d, but safely bolted and lends itself to projecting on lead.

We climbed with a 70m that has been shortened to maybe 62 meters. When lowering off of Proof's anchors, the leader touches ground near the start of QED, a good distance below the belayer. With the shortened rope, there appeared to be just enough left to indicate that a 60m would reach. If you do climb Proof with a 60, be certain to knot the end before lowering. Worst case scenario would require the belayer to climb up the route 5 feet or so in order to allow the leader to touch down. Note that if you did run out of rope, by that time the leader is suspended 15 feet away from the rock, so there's no chance to climb back up. Remember too that QED definitely needs a 70m!

A team of two climbers with a black dog arrived at the Tick Farm mid-afternoon and got in a few climbs, starting with No Dick Tick. They left before we did, so we didn't get a chance to see who it was.

If you're a repeat visitor to the area and have climbed through the Tick Farm routes, we encourage you to venture up to the Upper Tier and sample Snaggletooth (10a), No Drama Obama (11b) and Proof of Concept (11d). These routes are considerably steeper and longer than the Tick Farm, and of really high quality. Note that Snaggletooth does require a couple of wires or micro-cams for the opening 20 feet. The other two are bolts only. So venture up and enjoy!

Descending from the North Rim
Evening Shadows, Bitterroot Valley

Friday, September 10, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day on the North Rim started off cold. Michael Moore, Olin Martin, Kurt Krueger and Dane Scott stood around stamping feet and blowing on fingers before heading up Snaggletooth, an odd but interesting climb on the Upper Tier. Named after an 8-foot, 1,000 lb horizontal tooth sticking out of the rock 70 feet up, it always raises the question, Do you trust it!?

Kurt Krueger on Snaggletooth

After Snaggletooth, Kurt and Olin spent most of the day on Kurt's challenging 10-ft roof crack, Give and Take. Kurt is the author of the area's two trad lines to date. He's doing his best to make sure the "youth" at least know what a hand jam looks like. The not yet geriatric Kurt managed to lead this physical and intimidating line with only a couple hangs. It will go soon for him, but Kurt has also declared it open for all others. Any crack climbers looking to get the first clean lead, have at it. There's one bolt in a blank section mid-route, and the rest is gear. The climb, with a proposed rating of 10d, ascends one pitch and finishes at Fixe rap anchors. (See last image of this blog post for a look up the start of the crack.)

Michael and Dane decided to do some labor in honor of the day. They quickly bolted and climbed a new 9-bolt line that shares anchors with Sabertooth. They dubbed the line Tiger Beat. While not quite of the same quality as the more sustained routes on the Tiger Wall, it's worth doing. It has a bouldery crux at a roof in the neighborhood of 11a. Be warned not to drift too far right at the roof to a large and loose looking block. Let's call that off route for now. Bolts 2 through 4 were closely spaced to do double duty. There is a direct variation that climbs straight up the bolts on excellent rock, avoiding Tiger Beat's larger holds just to the right of the bolts. While contrived, this variation offers challenging climbing in the 11c/d range -something definitely worth doing.

Tiger Stripe above Tick Farm
Give and Take is crack just right of rightmost snag.

There were a dozen people at the Tick Farm and maybe 7 cars at the trail head at one point, a virtual mob scene for Montana. Longtime Missoula area climbing fixture, the lithe and agile Brian Quilter, showed up with his new bride, Carlene. The couple is finally united in the same country after a long and Kafkaesque encounter with the US and Canadian immigration bureaucracies.

Ever since Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell split up in 2009, the world climbing community has speculated as to who would replace them as America's First Climbing Couple. As we watched the Quilters ticking off some of the North Rim's long, sustained and overhanging routes, we felt that here in Montana we need look no farther. As the rest of us left for the day, the happy couple was last seen enjoying the late summer sun on the Upper Tier climbing No Drama Obama. We are all glad to see Brian and Carlene finally united in Missoula.

At the end of the day, Brett Klaassen Van Oorschot and Ondi Crino did Witness the Tickness. Everyone seems to lower off this route with a wide grin, showing the lichen in their teeth. With its boulder-problem opening, and powerful but positive crux moves, this 5.11a climb is emerging as a consensus 3 to 4 star route. Olin, who pulled a key starting hold off of Snaggletooth and damaged his heel in the process, came back for a final attempt on Witness, as well. Alas, his labors with Kurt left him a little gassed, but he shall return. Both Olin and Brett have assisted Michael with bolting, Brett on Sabertooth and Olin on Ticktastic.

--Dane Scott and Michael Moore

Other sightings:

Seen Cruising the Canyon on Saturday

Friday, Sept 3rd In his first visit to the North Rim, Kyle Scharfe, back from a summer working in Glacier, joined a friend to climb the four-pitch Pie for Strength. Kyle remarked on good bolt placements, an attention-grabbing entry to the flake on Pitch 2, and the challenging crux seam on Pitch 3. Sounds like the 5.9+ fourth pitch, which doesn't see as much traffic as the other three, is starting to get cleaned up a bit. With a top-out onto the rim (and easy hike back down to the main trail if you choose), it's definitely worth doing, but climbers should still expect some crunchy lichen.

Saturday, Sept 4th Dane, Ken, Carlene, Michael, Olin and two climbers who arrived later, spent most of a fairly hot day on the Tick Farm, often wishing for a breeze that never quite filled in. Dane spent 2 hours re-crafting several bolts on QED, eliminating a couple and re-positioning two others. QED is now completely dialed, with 12 bolts and about 5 cam placements. Dane waited for good conditions for a redpoint attempt, but the hoped-for cloud cover never materialized, and by 3pm the air conditioning and cold beer at the Hamilton House drew us away.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Climbing and Philosophy Book

As a philosopher and ethicist by training, and a lifetime rock climber and alpinist, the University of Montana's Dane Scott is in a unique position to formally explore the game of climbing. In the new book Climbing, Philosophy for Everyone published this August by Wiley-Blackwell, Dane joins sixteen other authors in analyses that examine climbing within a philosophical framework.

Dane's essay, titled "Freedom and Individualism on the Rocks," pairs three seminal climbing routes with major individuals in ethics and philosophy, and examines how each climb, its era and ethics can be understood in terms of the associated philosophical tenet.

These pairings include,

Nietzsche and the Bachar-Yerian
John Stewart Mill and To Bolt of Not to Be
Charles Taylor and The Path

The book contains a forward written by elite big route speed climber Hans Florine. It is just released, and has already generated positive reviews.

Order here
Read a review here

Dane Scott Beneath His Route QED
Mill Creek

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday, Aug 28th

Thanks to Tim for this report from August, 28th.

Went to Mill Creek on Saturday with Brian. Met Kurt there with his visiting coworker Laura and her husband Reed from Maryland. They did most of the Tick farm routes. Brian and I went directly to the shelf above Tick Farm. Brian let Tiger by the Tail and I did Shere Khan. I traversed too high and fell on the traverse bolt but was then aligned to climb it. Brian then led Snaggletooth and set up a TR on No Drama Obama. We both had a great time on Obama.

Brian Story and his wife Leia topped out on Pie for Strength as we were getting done with Obama. They said it was a great route. Brian said the 3rd pitch presented some challenges. Leia was getting ready to lead the 4th pitch as we left.

Daithi Firing Pitch 1 of Pie for Strength in July

Kim was also back at the tick farm with 2 friends from Tucson. She
said she loves the casual atmosphere.

On the way down the trial we encountered 20 members of a church group casually
walking up the trail to get a glimpse over the edge. They where about
half way up the trail to the climbs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ten Sleep!

This may be "the Mill Creek Report" but since a road trip took several of us, including Dane, Tim, Gray and Ken, away from witnessing or creating Mill Creek news, it seems appropriate to report on our travels.

Ten Sleep, Wyoming has certainly hit the international climbing radar the last couple of years, especially after elite climber James Litz blasted through in 2009, establishing a number of 5.14s. Full time sponsored climbers Alli Rainey and Kevin Wilkinson live there. Pro climbers Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney spent this summer climbing and establishing more hard routes. Jon Siegrist swung through on his summer road trip. And the Climbing Narc even stopped on his and Mrs. Narc's vacation to Yellowstone and Glacier.

Several of our local crew, among them Scotty, Levi and Kyle, also traveled to Ten Sleep this summer. Counting this last trip to meet up with us, Scotty's been there three times. Yeah, the place is that good.

Crux Mono on Cocaine Rodeo 12a

The canyon is oriented roughly north-south and the vast majority of climbs are located on the east-facing rock. On hot, August days, the routes begin entering the shade precisely at 1:30pm. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and triple-digits down in the flatland, but in the canyon we climbed in super comfort, always in the shade, often wearing a light jacket and hat while belaying.

School's Out 10d - First day, first climb

For morning climbing on hot days, there's the amazing Wall of Denial - Ice Plant. This sector features ice caves hidden inside deep chimneys. To belay at some climbs, you need full autumn garb to endure the (literally) freezing air that flows out of the chimneys. This canyon is a crazy natural phenomenon with the added bonus of dozens of great routes from sub-5.10 to 5.12.

Dane - Wagon Wheel of Death 11c

Ten Sleep climbs ascend Big Horn Dolomite. We found it very kind to our hands. We were able to climb 5 days in a row, and only on the last day did we start to feel some tenderness in our fingertips, and that was due to projecting a 5.12b on one of the more crimpy walls in the Shinto sector. This was climbing more reminiscent of Rattler. The rest of the climbing is quite diverse, with an emphasis on pockets, but not in the same way as Wild Iris or Sinks -- meaning, don't be put off it you aren't a pocket crusher.

Scott Parker - Mr. 8a to you

It's hard to single out individual routes. Basically, everything is so good. Just head up to a sector and start climbing. The routes are safely bolted (you need zero gear at Ten Sleep, only draws) and offer the entire spectrum of grades. Camping is free in primitive sites in the canyon. The town of Ten Sleep is close with good eats, drinks and free water at the Lyons Club park. Don't miss the new bakery and espresso bar with wireless internet. It opened just 2-1/2 months ago and features excellent lattes and amazing homemade bagels.

Gray - Sending 5.11 with GT style

The distance is right at 500 miles from Missoula. We left Thursday after work and spent the night in a free fishing access campground in Columbus next to the Yellowstone river. We drove the rest of the way on Friday and were climbing by noon even with a breakfast stop at a restaurant in the tidy little town of Cowley, WY.

Ten Sleep -- go climb there! We definitely will many more times.

Tim - About 12 bolts to go on a sweet 5.11

Gunner Livin' the Life

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Saturday the temps were forecast to be fairly nice. We felt less pressure to be on the rock as early as the past two trips, so left town at a slightly more relaxed 7 a.m. Ken and Dane headed to the Upper Tier and got on Snaggletooth, then No Drama Obama. The latter with its requirements of both power and endurance makes a great warm up for QED . Gray Thompson arrived while the rope was still through the top anchors of Obama and, having barely set his pack down, suited up and hopped on the first half of the route, which is itself 10c/d. Gray dispatched quickly, styling through the lower crux on-sight.

Next came the day's focus: QED.

We had left three draws on the route: one at the crux, one at the lip of the roof, and one at the start of the upper headwall. We also have two fixed wires at the start of the gear section. But that still left cams to place and the remaining draws to hang. Dane was up in the rotation, so racked up and climbed through the opening bolt and the fixed wires to the first cam placement. This first cam is finicky. The rock bulges and you make the placement either off a sloping right hand, or a shallow left hand finger jug. The cam is a gray Metolius and must be placed just so in a short slot that's hard to see.

Dane had sussed the placement during previous top rope sessions, but on this day on lead the cam wasn't cooperating. We all know that feeling: you expect things to go quickly and easily, and they don't. And then they don't some more, and next thing you know you're pumped and have spent a lot of effort just getting the clip. Basically, your first burn on the route is done almost before you get started. Dane did manage to get the cam in securely, but lowered to the ground at that point to rest and the sharp end went to Ken.

Fortunately, the remaining gear is pretty straight-forward if you know what you're going for. After taking advantage of Dane's work to get the Metolius in,
four more cams took Ken to the the final piece, a bomber blue Alien in the back of the horizontal pod below the crux bulge. After placing this, he downclimbed to a good rest to shake out and collect for the crux. Then it was back up, past the Alien, left hand in the good slot, clip the crux bolt, bump to intermediates, right hand to the rattley crux slot, feet up, and suddenly, for the first time since projecting the route, he had pulled through the crux in one go from the ground. From there he held it together, milking every shake-out for all it was worth, and eked through the many 5.11 sections above to get the climb's first ascent.

Dane pulled the rope, tied back in and went for the double send. As usual, he climbed quickly through the crux, but there seemed to be higher gravity above, and it wasn't to be for him on this day. The route will certainly go next time.

With the ascent of the North Rim's hardest route, and having it located just right of our first line of exploration, Proof of Concept, we feel we've really come full circle in exploring the North Rim's potential. At present, there are 18 routes and 21 pitches of climbing. Grades range from 5.7 trad to this most recent, which we propose as 5.12b. For this first chapter of route development, QED serves as a real exclamation point. So much so, that we're updating the name to a recent modernist variant. With apologies to the classics of language and logic, the route is now called QED-MF!

Turning the Roof During the Send

Footnote to the Ascent

After lowering to the ground from his redpoint, Ken revealed that he'd structured his week, including training, rest, diet and mental preparation, in order to achieve a performance peak for the attempt. He then confessed he'd even given up beer during the previous few days.

"Now wait a minute," Dane said, "I didn't know we were playing by those rules."

Ken turned to Gray for support, but he too looked stunned. "That's just not right," Gray said. "We're going to have to downgrade your ascent to at least a pinkpoint."

Other Sightings

Deanna with Claudine, who recently returned from Europe, arrived mid-afternoon at the Tick Farm. We stopped on our hike out to talk for a minute as they warmed up on No Dick Tick. They had plans to climb on the Tiger Stripe, and we would have liked to stay and watch, but cold celebratory beers called from the Hamilton House in Victor, and so we left them to have the sunshine and the routes to themselves.