Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Career, Passion and 5.14

In early October, Deadpoint Magazine posted an interview with Audrey Sniezek. Sniezek had just sent her first 5.14a and 5.14b. As the interview reveals, it isn't only remarkable that she achieved this elite level, or that she's done so not as a 90-pound (or less) teenage (or younger) mutant, but rather, that she climbs world-class routes while holding down a high-pressure job as a software developer and program manager at Microsoft.

Now, word of Sniezek's achievements has spread beyond the climbing community. Microsoft technologist Scott Hanselman, creator and host of the popular and always-engaging technology podcast Hanselminutes, has just released a show featuring Sniezek. To head off any fears for non-technical listeners, the 30 minute podcast only mentions "spreadsheet" a couple of times, and instead focuses on climbing, training, and balancing job demands with the pursuit of athletic performance.

This is a great listen for anyone wondering how to manage the passion of climbing in the context of a busy life.

Access the podcast here: http://hanselminutes.com/345/world-class-climbing-with-audrey-sniezek

Monday, November 19, 2012

Climbing Into Art

Submitted by Tim Karst

Nature, fresh air, physical challenge, and camaraderie with like-minded enthusiasts are only a few reasons why I constantly hunger for my next climbing adventure. It's been a part of my life for the past thirty years. I guess I could be considered an experienced climber, but please don't earmark me as a master - a premature senior, yes, but not a master. Some may call me an old school climber, others Long Stockings; but I like to think of myself as an artist.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an artist as "a follower of a pursuit in which skill comes by study or practice." I follow; I pursue; I study, and I practice; so by all rights, I think of myself as an artist. I'm not an artist as in the sense of Michelangelo who chiseled Carrara marble. I might drill into granite with a barrowed drill to place a new bolt, but restructuring the actual stone is not on my top ten list. Perhaps, I am more of a performance artist? Whether leading, laybacking, jamming, or stemming, it could be considered an interactive dance with the rock; or it could just be the best way I can pull myself up the route before my arms tank.

However, I do find myself making the analogy to art since my wife, Barb, of twenty-six years is a professional painter. I can't help but sometimes see the world through her vision. She doesn't care if a climb is rated 5.11 or 5.8 as long as I am safe while climbing it or if it looks "pretty" in the morning sunshine. So, alas, this past year she was on a quest to paint a large acrylic of me completing a lead climb in Mill Creek. Together, we scoured through my countless climbing shots on our computer. Barb, trying to nail down the perfect photo, made the search a little trying. This one was out of focus or had not enough color or was too far away or was not the right angle or she couldn't see the gear or I was wearing drab colors, etc., until all at once an epiphany hit Barb and she found her muse. The problem was, it wasn't me. It was Ken Turley. Now an insecure man might be rattled by this gesture and start hitting the gym more often to pump up his biceps. But no, I stood my ground, and accepted the fact that my wife was going to paint an image of me modeled after Ken or perhaps superimpose my head on Ken's body. So the quest began.

Ken - Sinks Canyon
One day last December, while climbing with Dane Scott, Brian Quilter, and Carlene Quilter in Mill Creek, I asked Dane if he would take some pictures of me leading "Witness the Tickness." However, the picture couldn't be the stereotypical butt shot from the ground up. No, it had to be a profile shot, just like the one I originally took of Ken. In order to do this correctly, Dane had to climb halfway up the adjacent route, harness himself into position, stabilize the camera, and conduct a series of profile shots of me sending "Witness the Tickness". Even the best photographers who shoot for Climbing Magazine would have been proud of Dane's fearless task. After the deed was done, I thanked him profusely and headed home with a digital card full of me...wearing red...in profile...not too far away...at the perfect angle.

Brian and Tim - Witness the Tickness
It was like Christmas morning, opening those photos in Photoshop, each one popping open like a child's wide eyes while unwrapping their holiday gifts. But when the last one was opened, there was suddenly a crushing realization there were no more gifts to be had. "Is that it?" remarked Barb. Just to fill you in, Ken's climbing style is controlled and powerful, always in balance. I use long leverages and extreme reaches to gain purchase. So, while Ken's picture was cropped tight and fills the entire frame of the picture plane, my climbing picture looked more like Stretch Armstrong. "Well, I guess I'll have to superimpose the legs on this picture onto that picture, beef up the color, take out the backpack, change the hands, tilt the head, etc.," Barb pronounced. I knew I was in for some intimate hours with my computer.

At last, we had a picture that captured her vision of me climbing. All was right in her world and mine; "happy wife, happy life." Barb started painting the four foot by two foot acrylic of me in early January of 2012; and after three-hundred hours of easel time, she finished it in mid-March. The painting was shipped off to New York City and was shown in a gallery on 5th Avenue in June. If you want to see the blood, sweat, and tears up close and personal, the painting, Face to Face, is now hung on the wall, with a plethora of Barb's other painstaking grid paintings, at the Women's Care Center, located on the 3rd floor in St. Pat's Hospital. It will be displayed until the end of December 2012.

So, yes, I would say climbing is like art. It takes time to develop, to constantly try to perfect (though we all know that is an unrealistic goal). It's the blood that courses through my veins. I find solace in it. Just like Barb with her painting, I climb because I must.

Face to Face
Acrylic on Gessoed Wood Panel
2012 (c)
Barb Schwarz Karst
Acquire at info@schwarzkarststudio.com

"Face to Face depicts my husband climbing a rock wall in the Bitterroot Mountain Range. Tim's hunger for climbing was evident when I started dating him thirty years ago. Even though this biographical painting is liberal with its approach to color and symbolism designed to entice the art viewer, it is also loaded with accuracies concerning the gear to please any technical climber that might gaze upon my artistic, non-climber, interpretation of the sport. The title, Face to Face, not only refers to Tim physically turned toward the granite's surface or face; but it also refers to confronting fears, head-on." --Barb Schwarz Karst

Friday, November 9, 2012

UM Climbing Club Slide Show

Kurt Krueger will be giving a mountaineering slide show for the University of Montana climbing club next Wednesday, November 14th.

Many of you may only know Kurt for his unique brand of humor through his posts on this blog, or when you've run into him at Kootenai or along the base of the Tick Farm. But Kurt's been at the climbing game for over 40 years and has spent considerable time in the major mountain ranges across the planet. Kurt's levity at our local sport crags only means he knows how to keep things in perspective. He matches his approach to fit the context. When the stakes go up in the mountains, you'll never find anyone more serious or capable.

As Kurt's lifelong friend and climbing partner Bob Siegrist, father of climbing hotshot Jonathan Siegrist, said during a recent Ten Sleep trip, "Kurt's the most solid guy I've ever known."

Denali: Going from Big Mountains to Bigger Mountains 
University of Montana, University Center, Room UC 331 
Wednesday, November 14th, 6:00pm 

Email us here or leave a comment if you need more info.

Gracie and Buck packing gear and ready to go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Banff Film Festival in Missoula

The always popular Banff Film Festival world tour will be showing in Missoula this Sunday, November 11th at 6pm. The screening is being held at the Wilma this year. Previous years have been on the UM campus. More information with ticket prices and where to but them: http://life.umt.edu/CREC/Outdoor/films_lectures.php

Kurts Causal Election Analysis

Not to be outdone by the national pundits and mountains of post-election analysis, your Mill Creek blog jumps in the fray with this timely election recap by Kurt.

Obama Victorious, Packers to Receive Super Bowl Win
By Kurt Krueger 

November 7, 2012. Missoula, Montana Paul Ryan tried to use the Packer name for his campaign. He tried to pick up the union vote with the bad call the replacement refs made during the Seattle game. Ryan's home state of Wisconsin was not impressed and they voted accordingly. The nation followed, and President Obama was reelected for a second term. The President demands the Packers be given the Super Bowl win. All is right in the world.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Firsts, Flashes and Friends

What a time at Mill this past Saturday! The beautiful November forecast brought out many groups of climbers for what was certainly one of the best days we've ever had up there. The temperature was crisp, and the sun shown most of the day making for aweomse friction in teeshirt conditions. The crag filled with activity.

Michael is now the Missoula area coordinator for the MT Rock and Ice Meetup started by Chris Nadasi in Kalispell, and he's been getting some great response. He was joined by several climbers who coordinated through the Meetup, including repeat and first-time visitors. Among them was Gina, climbing with Michael on the Tick Farm, and enjoying her first climbing day ever. It's always great to hear of someone trying climbing for the first time. Shout out to you, Gina!

First Girlfriend Buttress
To the left of Tick Farm and Tiger Stripe, Ken got the first ascent of a new route he bolted a week ago. The climb ascends Cougar Bait to the second large ledge, then follows four new bolts straight up to Liger's anchors. Since it starts on one route and finishes at the anchors of another, we gave it its own name of "Coyote Tricks."

Opening Coyote Tricks
It has a provisional grade of 5.11d R (could be 11c/d, more feedback needed). The "R" comes from ledge-fall potential if you blow the clip at the 2nd new bolt. Hollow-sounding rock leading up to this bolt prevented a better spacing. The climbing through there is on big holds and is not the crux, but is still reachy and somewhat powerful. The best approach is to do what Ken did: climb Liger as your warmup, then on the lower pre-hang the top three Coyote Trick bolts, placing a longer draw on the third bolt from the top (which is also the bolt that protects the crux). With that bolt pre-hung, the clip is pretty mellow with your right hand on a fairly positive large, flat-topped ledge. After that, you're super safe and good to go as you contemplate the postive but small edges of the crux bulge. You'll also want a single-length runner to clip the last bolt on Cougar Bait off the big ledge before moving up and left to Coyote Trick's first bolt.

22-Liger (10d), 23A-Coyote Tricks (11c/d R), 23-Cougar Bait (11d)
One of the climbers sampling the area for the first time was the very strong John Gogas. John was in town visiting relatives, and we owe Tim thanks for getting him up to the crag. John was a pleasure to meet and climb with, and it didn't take more than a minute watching him warm up to realize he's the real deal. Turns out this initial impression was not only accurate, but a fair understatement. Climbing with Tim, Dane and Ken, John steadily clipped his way up the grades at the crag. He finished the day by flashing both Big Science (for its 6th ascent after Dane, Hobbs, Ken, Conor and Bill), and Scary Math for its 2nd ascent (Dane FA). With his input, we've finally settled on grades of 5.12b for Big Science and 5.12c for Scary Math.

John Gogas - Big Science crux during the flash.

Big Science - Last moves before the chains.

Scary Math - Flash, before the roof shakeout.

Scary Math - Above the roof.

Scary Math
Face to face with the redpoint crux after all that climbing.

It turns out John is not just the "real deal," but has a significant history with modern climbing and the upper echelon of our sport's athletes. For example, you can read of his role in the development of Hueco Tanks bouldering here and here. Needless to say, it was highly motivating to watch John climb our hardest routes with such solid control and power. We'll all be hitting our own training harder this winter as a result, and will look forward to his next visit to Missoula!

John Gogas
Speaking of Scary Math, everyone should feel free to give it a try. Dane got the first ascent July 25th. Ken has been projecting it this fall, with several one-hangs, tagging the last hold near the anchors, but has yet to stick it for the send. The draws will stay on more or less until he does. You're free to clip them. Note you need to bring your own for the 1st/2nd bolt right off the deck. Also, there's a bolt above the main roof two-thirds of the way up that isn't pre-hung. This is a bolt best skipped on redpoint when the roof moves are sussed, but can come in handy if you're trying to figure them out for the first time. So bring your own draw if you want to use it. Be sure to let us know if you send!

QED-MF is Dane's main unfinished business. He got on it Saturday for the first time in quite a while to re-learn sequences and change out his old draws. He climbed each segment solidly, easily pulling the boulder problem crux. If the mild weather continues for another week or two in November, he looks well positioned to link it up into the redpoint.

Last winter Dane and Ken made good use of cold weather days to put up Big Science and Scary Math, with the routes ready to climb in time for spring. That proved a great use of off-season time, one we'll repeat again this winter. We have a rope hanging now from new top anchors left of Big Science. This marks the beginning of work on a route to be named "Dark Matter." The route will go up this winter. We hope to also bolt a line to its left more or less following the arete right of QED-MF that will be called "Event Horizon." Dark Matter will be another 5.12. We're thinking Event Horizon might be in the 5.10 range.

Kurt also has tag lines on the right-facing corner system right of Scary Math. He climbed on it Saturday. This line is called "Crack a Book" and looks like it'll be mid 5.11. He's doing some cleaning of loose blocks (plenty) and determining what, if any bolts will be required. So this one is still a project that will require more prep before it can be safely climbed. Look for it also by spring.

Kurt, winner of the First Annual Green Bay Packers
Mill Creek Halloween Costume Contest held mid-October.
Dane recently added anchors between Mighty Mouse and Little Heroes and worked out most of the moves on a new route that will be named "Danger Mouse." It feels a letter or two harder than Mighty Mouse. This line will also go up during the winter, adding another fun, bouldery climb to the Little Heroes sector.

Dane beginning work on Danger Mouse.
Without a doubt, the climbing at the North Rim remains dynamic and active. New routes are going up and milestones are happening, from first-timers to first-flashes. It's the the rock and the climbing that takes us up there, but a day like Saturday brings home a deeper meaning to what climbing can give us. As Michael put it looking back on the day, "It's an actual community full of joyous, psyched people -- it may be the best thing of all, better even than Scary Math!"

Freestone Climbing Gym owner Walt Hailes

Skander on Liger.

Bill (Big Science? Check!) and Tim "Flash Belayer" Karst

Carlene and Samantha

That's it for now...