Sunday, June 29, 2008

Little Sauna

The temperature edged towards triple digits the past few days in the greater Seattle Area. High eighties for "cooler" Seattle, same for the normally cold Sammamish, and even warmer in North Bend, near Mount Si. In eastern Washington, Leavenworth, the mercury boiled up to 96 degrees. The weather's been hot. Now, they say that it's okay to workout in the heat. It loosens the muscles, they say. Your flexibility is higher, they say. You lose more weight they say. Well "they" don't know shit about rock climbing. For the past two days, Little Si transformed into a little sauna. The trees grabbed the moisture and hugged it close to the steep gray rhyolite wall. My forearms sweated grabbing the slick, greasy rock. I could barely keep enough chalk on my hands. The humidity and the heat made conditions suck. Or so I imagine. Patrick O'Donnell, a former Californian, informed me that the temps were abnormal. Still, Patrick was able to climb, and well at that. Despite the sauna conditions, Patrick redpointed Extended Illness (5.13c), an extension to the classic Chronic. The route follows the sustained Chronic to just below the anchors before jogging right up through a difficult v7 boulder problem. The red haired Irish man's smooth ascent inspired me. I want to climb hard too. So I tried. And I floundered. And I tried more. And I floundered more. After four tries I managed to squeak out an easy climb to a dumb boulder problem. Then I performed some multi-pitch bouldering on Technoridge, which features a v5 boulder problem to easier climbing. The heat definitely made climbing difficult. I felt sluggish and only climbed 6 pitches yesterday and 5 today. Sad. While I did manage to flash Rainy Day Woman (a good flash for me) and send Busta Move, I felt like my climbing blew.

Today, I hiked to the crag and caught a belay from the bantam weight Ben Gillkinson and his buddy Ryan. The boys were busy establishing a new route when I came to the crag. Actually, Ryan was laboring on the route, smashing off loose holds, and cleaning the rig while Ben twirled around on the rope, belaying from below. After removing all the choss, Ben booted up and tried the rig. Looks hard. The line is an extension of an extension of a route. Weird. It climbs Rainy Day Woman (12a) through Hydrophobia (12d) and into a large obvious roof with a hard boulder problem involving some serious campusing. Think v8 on small holds. Eventually Patrick rolled up to the crag and we climbed together for awhile. Fun stuff.

At the end of the evening I tried Technoridge. It was hot. I was sweating. The holds were greasy. I moved up through the 11b begininning, into the v5 boulder problem, where I was quickly bouted. I tried the move again. And again. And again with marginal success. I moved to the top of the route. Lightning flashed across the sky as I headed to the anchor. I grabbed a sidepull and planked my body, cantilevering off a smooth fin of rock. I hit a small hold and threw for a large sidepull. Then I fell. I whipped twenty feet before the rope finally caught me. That's when I heard the lightning. Patrick and I walked down, following Ben. It was nearly dark. As I drove back to Sammamish, it started to drizzel, then rain. And I started to think, then obsess. I'll have to go back to Little Si soon.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Adventures in Washington

So You Think You Can Dance!? features a half dozen pairs of dancers vying for the votes of the millions of weekly Fox viewers. Their dances are choreographed and they (one cute girl and one gay man) perform the routine in a business suit for him and half a dress for her. I settled into the couch in Sammamish to watch the show this evening. My eldest brother, Chris, flanked me while my sister-in-law, Kat, sat curled beside him. I imagine this is a weekly affair. The whole Tivo/recordable tv show business made the event bearable. The tv in the Peshastin house only plays DVDs and tapes and I haven't watched network television since the last time I was in Chinese Camp. My brother is an avid fan. He's the director of strategy over at Microsoft; he's in charge of revamping the political organizations of small countries in Africa and Southeast Asia with newer, improved, more Windows friendly types of democracies. I suppose his job is hard. Lots of office politics. "Turf wars," Kat said. Whatever. It's been a few years since I've seen either him or Kat. It's hard to meet up when he's busy directing strategy and Kat's busy taking care of my four year old niece Graylin. While it's nice to see them both, I'm afraid my oldest brother's gotten a little round around the stomach. When I say "a little round" I mean very round. And when I say "very round" I mean, think Goodyear Blimp. The climbing lifestyle doesn't afford too much fat. Sure, I occasionally roll around with a bit of a muffin top, but it usually doesn't spill more than an inch or four over the top of my jeans. Maybe I'm just not used to seeing round Americans. It's really unhealthy. He's diabetic. It's not a good lifestyle. Everything's better when you're fitter. From you're ability to think and perform daily routines to nocturnal wrestling. I'm tempted to say something to him but don't know how. "Dude, you're fat" seems rather callous, especially since he's hooking it up with a sick place to stay for when I go to Little Si tomorrow. Maybe, I'll try to get him to go on a hike with me and Graylin. It can be a bonding thing...aka a two hour power slog up a strenous hill. Hopefully he's not in danger of cardiac arrest.

The past few days, actually the entire time I've been in Washington, I've been lost. Completely disorientated. My Boy's Scout Orienteering badge is on the edge of being revoked. I drove past Index today by 8 miles. I had to turn around when I hit Goldbar. The night before I drove ten miles past the Forestland, which is the only bouldering spot I've been to more than once. Damn. I almost gave up on going. I was pretty frustrated. I couldn't find the tiny turn off the wooded road, the boys in Peshastin all stayed home drinking beer, and my ankle hurt from a big fall I'd taken off a boulder two days before. I managed to find the boulders though and I dragged three crashpads out. It was a really good solo session. I rarely boulder alone but I managed to get psyched and do a couple problems I wanted to try. I even stuck a dyno, which is rad considering I don't know how to jump at all. I didn't mind having been lost for so long when I stuck that boulder problem or when I finally found Index.

I was all psyched on bouldering last night, trying to send the gnar, but today I stopped by Index to hang out with Cole Allen and Mikey Schaefer. They were toproping at the Lower Town Wall. Suddenly, I got severiously amped on route climbing again. I could learn a lot from Index. My technique is pretty appallingly and the smooth granite of the Town Wall could sharpen my skills quite a bit. A couple days at Little Si, sport climbing and hanging with the fat brother, and then maybe I'll go hang in Index for a little bit.

Still, I need to find a job. If I don't get one soon, I may end up working some crummy gig like Max did 2 years ago, grinding away at a chocolate factory in a uniform in downtown Leavenworth- he packed fudge in liederhosen in little Bavaria.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The Toyota Tercel coughed west on the 2, out of Sammimish, through Monroe, and towards Leavenworth. The muffler hacked, straining it's coat hanger support, and threatening to drag over Steven's Pass. Thousands of conifers cover the rocky hillsides, with small outcrops of granite poking through the forests. The strong Sykomish, the Wenatchee, and Icicle Creek rush along the roadside with their white capped flow and irreverent roar. It reminds me of the Catskills where I grew up. Less farmland. More trees. Beautiful land in the Northwest.
The people are another matter. As I followed my dirtbag climbing partner, local hardman Jens Holsten, the culture emerged. In Goldbar, a crew of firefighters plied a sedan that had backed five feet into the local ramshackle bar, destroying the flourescent Budweiser sign and knocking over a few bar stools. In Index, a trainwreck of trailers lined the river below the popular Town Wall crag. The inhabitants slunk out at one point. The sight of one woman horrified me. Her blood shot eyes stared vacantly in two different directions, her WalMart sweat pants hung off her, and her grill was horrendous. She could have eaten corn on the cob through a chain link fence.
My first couple days here, I haven't done much. Bouldered a little, climbed at Index, and the Drip Wall. On summer's solistice, I worked on securing a vicious hang over, one which I couldn't recover from all day on Sunday. The climbing here is pretty rad. The bouldering's really good. The routes leave something to be desired though Jens insists that the mountain routes (aka the brush covered 8 hour slogs) are what make the Cascades so awesome. There's a ton of monkeys hanging around the Pasamish house where I'm staying. There's a hippie dude on the couch, Max and Ryan have their own rooms, Jens lives in his car (and vias for space on the couch), Jessica lives up the street, Joe lives down the road, and Cole and Johnny G come out to Leavenworth on the reg. Charlie's also out here crushing. Yesterday he put up a sick V10 highball, which jogs right off the Ruminator in the Forestland. Neither Cole nor Johnny were able to repeat it (there assholes puckered too tightly when they had to pull hard moves 20 feet off the deck.)
My current agenda includes looking for work. I penciled in to find a job some time before I run out of money. There's a ton of Baviarian inspired restaurants in Leavenworth and as long as I don't have to wear liderhosen, I'll be pysched. Besides the restaurant scene, a thousand orchards and vineyards line Leavenworth. I could pick cherries, pears, or apples with the other migrant workers.
It sort of sucks that I don't have the internet right now. No lurking on Facebook and I can't regularily keep up with the cool things going on the world. I feel Whatever. Also, I'd like to note that most of my time has been spent in Little Wayne style, "Getting higher than gas prices."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Be There or Be Slandered

Picture something red: a tomatoe, a stop sign, a lobster. Now picture the scorching summer sun. That's why for the past few hours, I've been rubbing aloe over my nose. I'm sunburnt.

For the past week, I've been lurking in Tuoulumne, hanging with some monkeys. I drove to Yosemite, picked up Jens, and met Lucho, Max, John Schmid, and Robby in the meadows. We spent most of the day slandering each other. "Be there or be slandered." became our motto.

I spent the first few days drinking an offensive amount of water and pissing a lot, which happens when I drink a lot of water. I needed to avoid another round of high-altitude puliminary edema (HAPE). So pretty much I'm light duty and last year I kept getting dizzy from the altitude. I know, I know. It's not Gasherbaum 4. There's no reason why I should be getting sick. Whatever. I get dizzy at high altitude.
I can't remember which days we did what. We went to South Whizz a couple times, out to Private Property once, bouldering a little and out to the back of Pywiak. I top roped Electric Africa a couple times then went back and toproped it more. The route's really crimpy, technical, and no where near my style. I managed to pinkpoint the route yesterday. There's three bolts on the pitch and a two stoppers. It'd be hard to place one of the draws. My first lead attempt, I almost decked clipping the bolt by the crux. I damn near broke my legs. Glad I didn't.
Now, I'm hanging out in Red Bluff California with my brother for the night. Tomorrow, Jens and I are going to Portland, then Seattle Friday morning. Hopefully, I'll be able to climb Friday at Little Si.
I need to find a job soon. I'm broke. Well, almost broke. If a girl is reading this, I'm actually kinda loaded. I just play the pauper because it's hip these days. Regardless, I need to make some money so that I can climb this fall in Yosemite.
Also, I free-soloed Cathedral Peak earlier today. It's beautiful. I love soloing. It's really fun. 99% of the time, I've had really good experiences. Once I fell. Not so fun. Ruined the experience for me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pulling Out Like I'm Catholic

There are two large grey plastic bins, a clear bin, a milk crate full of food, a haulbag, a backpack, my Chrome messenger bag, a sleeping bag, a pillow, a thermarest, and an assortment of pens, sunglasses, and maps stuffed into the back of my Saturn. On top of it all, I shoved my bike into the mix. I finished my last final this morning at 10:30. I broke down my tent, my home for 3 1/2 of my 4 years at college, and shoveled all my gear into my car. I pulled into berkeley around 1, scored a free lunch from Jupiter's, where my doppelganger bartends and am bound for Yosemite. Unfortunately, I'll only be in the park for six days and I'll probably be in Toulumne for most of that time. I'm bummed that I didn't send anything this spring season. No El Cap. No Half Dome. No nothing. I squandered my time. It was a lowsy season.
"At least you had a season," Mandi told me. She's right. I should be pysched I got to climb so much this spring. But who's satisified with what they've got? Certainly not me. Tommy Caldwell recently freed Magic Mushroom on El Cap and went back to try it in a day. He came up short. He tried again and managed to stick it in 20:02. Caldwell wasn't satisified with just freeing El Cap. That shit's old hat for him. He stepped it up. I'd like to be doing the same sort of thing. Maybe not on the Tommy Caldwell level. More on the lines of the crippled James Lucas level.
Jens and I are driving to Washington on the 18th or 19 of this month. Max and Ryan have a place and Jens recently moved from the couch to the backyard so there's free room in the house! I'm really excited to go live with these guys as they're some of the original monkeys. Hopefully, I'll be climbing a lot. I'm starting to get a little pudgy. I managed to shed a decent amount of weight this spring but the past week or so I haven't been climbing much. I haven't pulled on my climbing shoes in 4 days! That's the longest I've gone without climbing in maybe 2 years. Yikes!
Anyway, I'm done with school. I guess I graduated although I have to find out if I passed my classes. I didn't have much of a spring season but at least I sent school, which was a major life goal for me. Now that I have a college degree and a bunch more debt, I can focus on getting my life together. I'll start with climbing in Toulumne.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Spinning Holds

I can not help it. Every time I go Pacific Edge or Planet Granite or Ironworks, I inevitably spin a hold. I'm thrown off the wall and splatter onto the pads below the bouldering or the rope cinches on my waist and I smash into the wall. I blame the plastic. Slopers are slimy, crimps too small, and the over sized handle bars have nothing to hold onto. In the rare instance that I can grapple one of these Metolious branded pieces of shit, the rig cartwheels on me and BAM! I'm off.
It was with some trepidation that I met Drew at Ironworks this morning. I wanted to bail. My forearms burned from climbing the day before. My ropes needed to be cut, haulbags cleaned, my clothes desperately needed a bath. But I went.
Drew "The Iceman" rolled up to the gym on his Ducati, flipped off the low growl of the motor, and busted out his brand new rock boots. He only climbs at the gym "Once a week." Right. After flailing on some of the "easy" problems, I walked over to the wave, the steep convex portion of the bouldering wall, where the Iceman was hiking. Drew dispensed with a couple "casual" problems and poured himself a cup of coffee from his super heated thermos. His girlfriend had just crushed her medical boards the day before and Drew entertained a life as a stay at home man, raising their 2.1 children in their baller home in Berkeley.
"I could just stay home. Man I'd get sick at climbing." I nodded and continue to flail on his "warmup". My lady friend is down too. How cool is that?"
A jealous smile creased my lips. "Did you back step here? Is this v5 hard?"
"No, dude, it's like V3. "
And then with a bunch of beta from the Iceman, I fired a v5. Then I fired another v5. Then I flashed a v4. My greatest gym climbing session ever! I was ready to retire. No spun holds, no dealing with douche bags (other than myself and the Iceman) and serious cranking.
Yeah, so this post seems asinine but I'll end it with an important piece of information just for you:
I'm kind of a Big Deal.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Clipping the Chains

"Don't fall clipping the chains. Study Hard." Rob's text reached me just as I drifted from reading about Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard and started staring at pictures of the West Face of Leaning Tower. For the past four years, I've had a strong push and pull in my life. I struggle with school and my goals as a human and climbing and my desires as a monkey. My balance is always off and I teeter towards the latter side, doing far less than what I am capabale of. Sad. Sad. Sad. Another mind wasted in futile attempts to conquer the useless. But it's important to me. Fufilling my worthless goals.
This morning, Lucho called me. I knew why right away but pretended I didn't.
"So, I've got some shit for you at my brother's house in Berkeley. When are you coming back to town?"
"Oh, I've got to work on Tuesday so I'm gonna wrap stuff up here, hang for a little bit, then bounce back to the city."
I paused for a moment. Should I ask? He hadn't offered. He wouldn't have called if he didn't want to spray though.
"So, were are you?"
"Chili and I are on the Block on top of the FreeRider. We're gonna rap."
"You mean you're bailing?" Fuck I hoped not. Lucho's been wanting to free climb El Cap for awhile. I wanted him to accomplish his worthless goal.
"No. We're cleaning up our stuff on the way down."
"So," I was anxious. What the fuck? Lucho's false modesty was aggravating. "Did you send?"
"I fell once on the 5.12 traverse. But then fired."
Fucking Lucho. What a hard man. He spent the past three weeks trying to free El Cap, plus a trip up earlier last year, another trip with me a few weeks before, and who knows how many hours punching the clown, staring at the topo of the FreeRider. I suppose it's useless that he sent the Freerider. He won't get a better job. Or be a better person. He'll just be Lucho. Still I'm jealous. Suddenly I want to study less. Climb more. Get stronger. The pull to climb all the time is overwhelming and I'm struggling to study at all. What'd Rob say? It had to do with climbing...yeah climbing...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ape Index

Three Years ago, Robert Filpi, a M.D. with Valley Radiologists Medical Group Inc. wrote me a letter as a follow-up to my lumbar spine fracture and fixation. After taking five views of my lower back he found "Lumbar are in normal alignment. There is a slight loss of height in the L4 vertebral body. A pedicle screw fixqtion has been performed from the level of L3 to the level of L5. There is slight anterior loss of height of the T12 vertebral body as well. Some loss of height of the the T11-12 interspace. An inferior vena cava filter is noted in place." While most of that sounds like doctoral gibberish a few sections are notable. In three different spots I have experienced a "loss of height."

I verified my shortening earlier today at the Berkeley Iron Works gym. On the wall by the bathroom is a place where you can measure your height, ape index, and then record the data. I did so. Before I cratered I was 5'9" and now I am 5'8". I am an inch closer to my grave.

My arm span was 71 inches, which means I have a plus three ape index. I found this rather reassuring. After I cratered three pins were placed in my left arm and then removed six months later. My arm does not straighten completely, yet I still have a positive reach. Very nice!

On another note entirely, I am momentarily lost. On Thursday, Lord willing, I will finish school at UCSC and be free to lurk wherever I want. Unfortunately, I'll also be broke. I can probably float for a couple weeks but will have to get a job pretty quickly. I'm not sure where to move. Lately, I've been thinking about Leavenworth Washington. A couple buddies of mine have a house there and I can leach off of them, smoking their resin, and eating their peanut butter & jelly for a solid month or so. I'll be close to Squamish and I even know a couple girls up there...all very tempting reasons to head north. The doppelganger wants me to live with him in Berkeley though. I like living with my brother, espescially since he's making a lot of money and doesn't mind buying me dinner at Tuk Tuk Thai or taking me to the movies and sponsoring me. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do. I need to put lipstick on my head just to make-up my mind.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Castle Rock and Important Things

The review for my Business Markets class ended at 1:40. Twenty minutes later, Phil threw his crashpads into the back of the Saturn and we bolted over the 17 to Castle Rock for a late afternoon session with Robby. The rock felt cold and crisp and the cool air was a welcome respite from the heat of Santa Cruz. We dinked around on Parking Lot rock, where I fell from the very last move of the tree problem 5 times, before heading up the hill. Then there was a quick stop at Duct Tape. Rob Miller was once a rad big wall free climber but these days he's become a welterweight boulder problem repeater, hiking multiple laps on Duct Tape. I was jealous. Phil, with his albatross arms (he's 5'11 with a 6'3" wing span), crushed the problem too. We stopped at Bates arete, which Rob managed to do using only the arete, and then took off. Phil and I stopped at Pinos and got burritos, then rallied to Pacific Edge, where I met Elaine and climbed some routes. Gym climbing's so hard.

Now is a good time for you to sit down. If you are already seated, grab the sides of your seat. In a few moments a discussion of the utmost importance will be transmitted to you. So, move your right hand away from your mouse, take your forearms off your disk, and grip your chair tightly. Okay...lately, I've been thinking. I try not to do this too often as it hurts the space between my head but lately I've been doing it. Thinking. Pondering. Festering. After much deliberation I've come to the conclusion that sour cream is entirely disgusting and not meant to be eaten. Oh! You think this is some sort of joke do you? Like "Oh gawd, James is so melodramatic." Well , I'm not laughing. Whenever I order a burrito, I always say, "No sour cream!" And then the cashier rings me up and I ask again, "I said no sour cream right?" The man behind the counter always nods and says "No Creme." I smile and look forward to a solid burrito without the disgusting substance. Yet, 20% of the time, what do I find in my burrito? Fucking sour cream! That shit is total man sauce. It has the consistence and appearance of sperm. Who's to say it's not? While we're on the subject, I recommend staying away from mayonnaise and any type of "special sauce" slathered on your burger or buns. Who knows where this shit comes from? I heard McDonald's breed rats for two uses: Quarter Pounders, and mayonnaise. Two months ago there was a job listing on Craig's list by McDonald's. They were looking for someone to manually masturbate their rats. Gross! Anyway, stay away from sour creme, mayonnaise, and all that other fatty liquid garbage slathered onto your burrito, burger, or buns, there's probably rat semen in it. Besides, it'll just go straight to your ass anyway.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Campfire Endurance Test

We walked out outside of the Red Room, buzzing slightly from the alcohol. Her blonde curls fell onto my chest as she pressed her body into mine. I pulled her closer as she whispered into my ear.
"I'd go home with you right now, James," her finger traced a line from around the square of my jaw, across my chest, and down the bumps of my abdomen before stopping to trace a circle above my belt line. "If you had a home to go to." She kissed me on the cheek and left.
I shrugged. She wasn't my type. I'm not into hot chicks. Or one's with baller jobs in good accounting firms. Or ones that love sex. Nope. That kind of girl isn't for me. I'd rather go climbing. So I did. Yosemite. Jailhouse. Vegas.
The next time wasn't as painful. We'd hooked up a few times over the years. I wanted sex. She wanted a relationship. Neither of us got what we wanted. "It's hard to have an emotional connection when you're not around all the time." I shrugged in response. She had a point. Emotional connections cut into my time on the rock. We stopped talking and I went climbing. Indian Creek. Zion. More Yosemite.
It doesn't matter where I go, the scenario's always the same. In Hueco, in Smith Rocks, in Toulumne. There's five dudes standing around the camp fire and only one girl. Everyone's boasting. Everyone's slandering. Everyone's waiting for the other guys to go to bed so he can spit serious game to the girl. It's the campfire endurance test. Finally, she gets tired, and leaves. Probably to find her boyfriend.
But sometimes she leaves with you, which only leads to more trouble. I walked away with a girl in Toulumne back to my campsite. I grabbed her, pulled her into my, and stared at her. She pursed her lips and moved to kiss me, then shook her head and stopped. My eyebrows raised quizzically. "Umm actually, I'm dating your friend right now." Yikes. I pushed her away and gave her a cordial good night. She kissed me on the cheek and kicked stones back to her campsite.
"You don't get a girlfriend, you get your turn." Or so the saying goes. You're either the guy who's girlfriend is about to leave you for your friend or you're the friend who's about to steal your "buddy's" girlfriend. It's fucked up. Who wants a "turn"? But...who wants to be alone?