Monday, March 21, 2016

The Past, the Present and the Future

Though we've been out a few times since November and squeezed in some kayaking as well, I have either been too busy to write about it or when I try, quickly I realize the stories start to sound the same. Sort of the calls from climber to belayer.  Belay on? Belay is on.  Climbing. Climb on.    Story Posted?  Posted.  Reading.  Read on.

Today's story its about people.  Have I ever told you my story about Dale Bard?  It's a good one, with a moral and everything.  But that's for another day.  Having just returned from Jack's Canyon (I hear quiet clipping sounds as Jim is unpacking... arranging his racks as I type) we have been reminiscing about the past, the present and the future.  That happens more and more these days as we find ourselves surrounded by younger and younger climbers.

When we went to JT in February we met a couple of 20 something Aeronautical Engineers for the Navy stationed in San Diego.  We shared our rappel rope at Split Rock/Isles in the Sky area.... and dinner! It turned out that their camp site was just a couple hundred yards from ours at Jumbo Rock. It's the least we could do for our military boys. (Shout out to Justin and Will)

This weekend at Jack's Canyon we met Kaylen and Loren both teachers from Las Vegas on their spring break.  We shared a few beers and campfire stories with them.  Kaylen works at a Gym in Vegas and they frequent Red Rocks, only minutes from where they live.  We squeezed them for beta on where to climb and where to camp (or not....there's not much space) and are already planning that trip....I'm thinking Red Rocks Casino Resort.
Looking down into Jack's Canyon

On Saturday, just as we thought we were exhausted, we ran into (well came up upon and politely asked to watch) Trish and Pete from Flagstaff who sent Sacrificial Lizard (5.11b) like they'd done it 50 times before (they have) and then lent us their top rope so Jim could give it a go (he did it, though not as pretty as they did :)

Then there was Brett from Durango, CO, who thankfully let us use his coffee press each morning.  Somehow we brought a percolator without the percolating parts.  He was with a group of 5 climbers and 3 dogs. We repaid them with HopKnot!

On Sunday morning we went down for one more pitch before packing to go home. The place was hopping.  Teams were on Casino Cliffs at every route.  We crossed over to that side and tiptoed through the deck areas full of gear, shoes, ropes and stuff we all use. We found a route on our "to do" list open "Sports Book" (5.10a).  As we geared up it wasn't long before we were joined by 2 climbers with an 18 month old baby (in a carrier on daddy's back.) Having fallen on my butt on the way down myself, I cringed at the thought of carrying more than rope and gear down that path.  But Caleb and Loren are young Climbing guides from Phoenix, though they were not guiding that day.  They were on their first outing with baby sans back up (ie: no grandma, no other couple...just mom, dad and baby) If it is testament to their guiding style, they were nothing but calm and composed, with things well in hand.

Caleb easily sent Crack Dealer (5.11b) after which, his wife Lauren gracefully waltzed up behind him.  Each carefully belaying the other with one eye on their partner and one on the baby.  With mom on a top rope, dad had a little more flexibility and displayed a most unique, controlled one armed (full body) method of "taking" up rope that I had ever seen.  With a sudden flash of WWSS (What Would Steve Say?) I feel compelled to name the process I had had just seen "Babylaying"   I was ready to grab the baby should he have left daddy's space, but ninja like "grandma reflexes" were not to be used that day.  If you'd like to learn more about Caleb and Lauren, check out their website at

It didn't take long of course for Jim and Caleb to discuss Phoenix rock.
    Jim: Do you ever climb at Pinnacle Peak?
Caleb: Yes of course.
    Jim: Have you done Loafer's Choice?
Caleb: Oh yea sure.
    Jim: That was one of mine.
Caleb: You are Jim Zahn?
    Jim: (smiling inside) Yep, that's me.  I did a number of first ascents back in the day. Mostly Pinnacle Peak, or The McDowells and a couple in Tucson, Cochise Stronghold (Abracadaver 5.11a)  and Mt. Lemon (Over the Rainbow 5.12-)
Caleb: You did that with Jim Waugh right?
Jim:  Did a number of first ascents with Jim Waugh back in the day.
On the way home it was hard to shut my husband up. We feel very good about staying in our sport and holding our own (at our age) against "some" of the younger generation.  He considers himself in the category of "old guys that crank" but when someone remembers you as a young guy that can kind of make your day.  Jim Zahn was glad we decided to climb at Jack's Canyon this weekend.

Funny thing too.....after we returned home, we met up with Jim Waugh (whom we have seen very rarely since he moved to Thailand a decade ago)  He's here for a summer guiding job in Colorado with a friend of his, Stewart Green of Front Range Climbing Company.   Jim and Stewart stopped by our house on their way to Colorado and conversation brings us around the two guides we met just that morning.  Believe it or not.......Caleb once worked for Front Range Climbing.  Small world, where the past catches up with the future in one quick move.  Like a rope that has just cleared its rappel anchor, floating right back down to where you stand.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Long lines in Siberia Slow the Yasmine Effort

Sometimes it's just fun to "call an audible"... grab the gear and go.  We call it an "unsanctioned" trip, and this trip was all about going back to finish an idea whose time had come.  Apparently we weren't the only ones up for a 3 mile ONE way hike that day.  We should have known by the fact that Jim and I (early scouts for camp) stayed on the BLM Playa Thursday night because campgrounds were full. We did the morning prowl on Friday for a campsite.  Which we did with great success by the way ;)  

My panorama of this part of Wonderland North (Siberia) shows only half the teams ON the walls. There are people visable here from Leon Redbone on the far left. Yasmine Bleeth in the center all the way to Weo on the far right. If you zoom in on this image you can see them.  - What you don't see is the group roping up for George's route. Or the ones just finishing up the approach about to get on Gandy, and the rest of our group waiting for someone to rap down from Dos Chi Chis so they could get on. 
Recall last month the Rain and Lightening kept us from hiking to Outer Mongolia and Siberia, where Steve has had a pending date.  That has been pending much longer than these past few weeks.  Some say years. With over 1,000 climbs in J.T. Steve had NEVER been on Yasmine Bleeth (5.9***) and we were bound and determined to make that happen.  Clearly the people in his office were waiting to hear how his "date" went.  Most likely even his wife wanted him to get this out of his system. 

Here's a sequence from Dos Chi Chis
a 3 Star 5.10a classic
So I won't keep you waiting...  He most certainly had his day with the beautiful stone face siren call. 

Unfortunately the route only became available as we were packing up to leave (after 7 hours) and then only because Alfred and Derrick (the Californians) offered their toprope. 

Because I was packed and ready to go (we still had the 3 mile hike in front of us) I only have photos of the route to the right of Yasmine.... Dos Chi Chis .  But that is no less beautiful and satisfying to look at. 

You'll see the traffic when I zoom out....the other pair
 (to his left) are about to do Yasmine Bleeth.  

You can see a party on "George's Route" on the right.
That was busy all day too.

These were taken with an iPhone 6.
With the new moving image feature.
On my phone if you touch and HOLD the image, you get to watch "Dancing with the Stars"

After Steve tops out on pitch one, 
Bill follows trailing a rope for Jim.....
and Jim....trails no rope?
Why? is Bryan not coming up?

Bryan?....oh Hell NO.....
The Command comes from above as Steve drops a rope

and Bryan follows...

This young couple from Kentucky
(who were setting up left of Steve in the photos above)
 descended from the top, in a tandem style rappel.  
That was cool enough on its own....but look closely....they are "Barefooted" !!!


Happy Thanksgiving to all.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rescue Rappel Training with Grandpa

These photos are from a beautiful October day in Joshua Tree National Park.  Climbing at the Cathouse area (easy access to the cars, as it was a rainy weekend) where we saw a cloudy but rain free day on Saturday with the Kids.  The 5.6 route called SideStep proved to a slight challenge for the kids, but they proved they were "Smelsser Offspring" as they made quick work of it while mom, Erin (Smelsser) Walls waited her turn.

While it looks like it was a top rope, Morgan (age 8) was actually trailing a rope for the next climber, back clipping at each bolt, while Grandpa held the other end of the trailing rope.  Keeping each boy from swinging off of the 5.6 portion of the route, he guided both Kellen (6) and brother Morgan (pictured) as Jim belayed from above.  Anchoring each child at the top, Jim then belayed Grandpa up after each one.

Here's how Grandpa decided to get them down.  Tandem Rappel.   First attempt with Kellan makes it clear the sling could be longer.

When he went back up to get Morgan, Steve brought a longer sling and that made Morgan's rap down a little more stable.

Grandpa had better train them well, because these boys were tearing up the rock.  Oh yea... and there's one more right behind them.  He would have been right up there with his brothers, had dad not held him down. He had the best seat in the house for sure.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rain, Lightening keep us out of Outer Mongolia but NOT Out of Options

We all watched in the days before the October pilgrimage to JTree.  40% chance of rain. No problem, it MIGHT rain.  Creeping up to 50 and 60% on the day we left, we were still unconcerned.  We know Joshua Tree. It could be raining in Hidden Valley while the sun shines at Jumbo Rock. Besides we have rain gear and love to use it.  Our plans consisted of:
  • 5 hr drive to Joshua Tree
  • Jumbo Rock on Wednesday night.  Check.  
  • Any campground we want ;) SWEET!
  • Hike to Outer Mongolia in the morning..  EARLY !
  • Send the long anticipated Yasmine Bleeth (a 3 star, 2 pitch, 5.9) before Steve's grand kids arrive that afternoon.  We knew we couldn't hike them that far.  The rest of the weekend would be full of the easy stuff (the inner me smiles) so we can get the kids (8, 6 and 3) TO the climbs, let alone UP them.
But alas rain gear won't protect you from lightening (somebody should work on that) and a 3 mile hike in, across the dessert, for a multi pitch climb seemed ill advised that morning.  After all we are grown adults and I've read that article in Climbing Magazine on the Laws of Lightening more times than I care to admit.

There was no sleeping during the thunderstorm that first night.  Even tucked in base camp we felt the wind like never before (and we KNOW JT is windy) but the Thunder & Lightening demanded attention and the Rain!  OMG the RAIN !  I made sure our lights were on in base camp and the door unlocked, fully expecting the tent campers with us to come running in soaking wet.
But nothing.  They had chosen (wisely) to pitch their tents on high ground.    The morning brought more rain and no shortage of DARK clouds so we decided to go to CapRock area for the day and wait for the kids to arrive and the weather to clear.

Steve, as usual points us to the perfect destination (not to far from the car) and a short little face (sport) climb with 3 bolts that proved to be a challenge just to get off the ground.  The off and on again rain was both annoying and refreshing, and we got used to the occasional mists.

 We then walked over to the South East Face where Jim led Catch a Falling Star (5.8) and was reminded of how intimidating leading Traditional Crack Climbs can be when we train at the gym (with GriGris)  and find so many sport routes outside these days that require no more than a quick inspection, quick draw, clip and move.

At 60 (or any age) you must remember where fear comes from and how to move past it.  

With the help of Steve, Bryan and I who did our best to remind him that it was only a 5.8 in JT (with all of the friction that provides) and not a 5.11 in the gym....He was able to channel his inner JZ spirit and traversed his way across the crack and turned the face moves to make the summit.

This is what it's all about.   Overcoming a private battle with your inner self.  Fully supported (emotionally and via belay) by your friends.

As many of you know, moving beyond the obligatory comments of "nice" to really offer encouragement isn't always easy.  Especially for those of us who climb with our spouses of 30+ years.  Sometimes when he leads, my heart is in my throat.  I prefer the official chatter when I'm the belayer.  ON BELAY, CLIMBING, CLIMB.  Besides not being a "leader" myself, I know me telling someone who feels lead out and pumped to focus and work trough it (when I couldn't do it myself) seems a little hollow.  But I know it helps for a partner to feel like his/her partner can do it.  It takes a team.  There's no I in SEND!

(I just made that up)  Really... I think there needs to be a HERE IT IS:

BUY IT HERE - and benefit the Rock Phoenoms in Tempe, AZ - $20 each - Need 10 people to order to actually print the BUY NOW.

I know that's crazy....but that's the world we live in.  Stay tuned.  My next post will be of a daring RESCUE RAPPEL out at the Cat House.

Thanks for reading.

Kay Zahn