Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Meat Truck

Sometime between cooking breakfast and the first bong hit of the day, I lost my keys. While I ransacked my car, a Ford with pickup a big white fridge in the bed pulled up behind my station wagon. A fat man with tattooed forearms and a Bluetooth piece in his ear stepped out.
“You live here huh?” I nodded, too stoned to explain that I slept in the basement, a semi-permanent house guest who planned on leaving as soon as the car keys showed up.
“And you like meat.” He pointed to the ghetto barbeque on the porch, a device Max bought at the thrift store a week before. “Can you help me out bro?” He pulled out out a half dozen boxes of vaccum sealed steaks, ribs, hamburgers, and pork chop from his fridge. He claimed the beef tasted tender, the chicken never cooked dry, and the burgers could be chopped up and tossed in spaghetti. After I asked him three times about the price, he opened a glossy brochure, showing a variety pack of meat for a mere three hundred dollars. But since I was helping him out, he’d give me a smoking deal or so he insisted. Five George Washingtons stared at me from my wallet, about all the money I had. Showing him my near empty wallet, he quickly noted he could practically give me a box of steaks for twenty bucks. I stumbled into the house, emptied Max’s wallet, and brought fifteen bucks back to the fat man, just to get him to leave. Instead of the steaks he promised, he shoved a box of hamburgers into my hand. I waddled back to the house, blinking my eyes, and wondering how I spent money looking for my car keys.

We cooked the burgers. They sucked. I fell for the hypnotic sales pitch of the fat man and got screwed. Maybe it was watching his jowls jiggle that caught me. Maybe it was the fancy talk. Maybe it was his blinking blue tooth. Fuck if I know. I’m just pissed I’m fifteen dollars poorer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Metalocalypse has begun

Dethklok stood behind the podium before thousands in Espo, Finland trying to apologize for the destruction and mass suicides caused by their music’s darkness. Unable to muster any sincerity, the band wrote a new national anthem for the Finish people, taking the lyrics directly from the Finnish Folk Book of Necromantic Spells. Mustakrakish, the Deth Troll, awoke from two thousand years of slumber by Murderface's heavy bass and Nate Explosion's screaming, and the seventy foot demon tore apart the country side. The Metaloclaypse began.

After watching the Adult Swim cartoon, Isaac and I plotted to climb at Nason Ridge, where steep blocky sport climbs fill two caves. Saturday morning, after warming up, we hiked to the upper cave, where there is a steep arete with a crux boulder problem in the middle of the route. I climbed up, placing my right foot high, pulled in tight, and wind-milled my hand to a half pad crimp. That’s so metal. Moving to the anchor, my wrist felt tweaked. On my second attempt, I stuck the windmill move, threw, and pulled in tight but fell throwing for the next hold. Lowering, my wrist started to hurt. I couldn’t climb. Isaac, who had just flashed the route, was spent and didn’t mind living the crag. We headed back to his house on Pine St where I popped down three Ibuprofen and soaked my hand in ice water as we watched Rampage. That night, I took care of my hand with more ice, rest, and a six pack of Pabst.

The next day, I rested my hand, taking more Ibuprofen, and rotating ice packs on the sore area. And so it has been for the past week. Having a hurt right hand has not only kept me from cl,imbing but has ruined my sex life. My amount of free time exploded. Suddenly, I baked more. I cleaned the house, and I got drunk. I read a few books, watched a dozen movies, and then when I didn’t have anything else to do, I sat on my ass. For a couple days, I worked on a short essay for the upcoming Stonemasters book. Though I am spending a little more time writing, a good thing, I am spending most of my time festering, a bad thing.

For the past seven years, I’ve been on tour. Yosemite, Squamish, Hueco, Indian Creek, and now Leavenworth. Dethklok never saw that much rock. Most of the trips have been good and I did not mind the gypsy life or a rock climber. Now, with my injury, with my desire to get a real job, and start working towards building a stable life for myself, I found I do not have a home, no place to begin from and it depresses me. I am home sick. I just do not have a home to be sick for. As Nate Explosion would say, “Brutal.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Half of the time I am broke. The other half of the time, I do not have any money. I finished school at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the middle of June and headed straight to Yosemite. Graduating was not good. With the sponsorship of Pell Grants and Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, I managed to pay for climbing trips, buy gear, and climb a lot for four steady years. Recieving my degree meant a dry well; no more student loans. I needed to work and be able to climb somewhere. My old friend and climbing partner, Jens Holsten, instisted that I could find a job in Washington. “It will be rad," he told me in the Toulumne Meadows parking lot. "You can stay at the climber's house in Peshastin, you'll just have to spot and belay for room and board. Plus, we can carpool to Leavenworth." The Icicle Ridge Winery needed help in a couple days, and Jens, a typical dirtbag, needed a ride.

Imagine that.

We left California, and headed to the northwest. Outside of Seattle, Jens picked up his Toyota Tercel, a rusted washing machine of a car, whose muffler was held in place by a coat hanger. The hour and a half long trip took its toll on the car and it broke down in the Grocery Outlet parking lot the next time it drove more than twenty miles. Ghetto. But before the big break down, I followed the rattling rig across the Cascades, heading east on route two, passing through the evergreens of the wet side of the Cascades towards the dry side of the mountains. On the way through Goldbar, one of the local bouldering spots, a crew of firemen plied a sedan from the inside of the local bar. The driver had backed up six feet into the building, all the way to the rear doors, knocking over a section of wall onto her car, and destroying the neon Budweiser sign. The woman, who looked like she had gotten lost on her way to a Twisted Sister concert, swayed her frazzeled hair while she talked to the police. The woman’s teeth described the scene in Goldbar. She could have eaten corn on the cob through a chain link fence.

Yikes. Locals.

A few miles beyond Goldbar is Leavenworth, a town loggers established in the middle of the Gold Rush, around 1860, making a strip of businesses out of the saloons and brothels. As the need for lumber decreased, the economy declined, and the boom town slowly became skeletal and desolate. While Leavenworth's fruit industry made significant contributions to the economy with the hills of pear, apple, and cherry trees, the town needed more. In the 1960's Leavenworth locals made a last ditch effort to bring business, adopting a Bavarian theme. Now the town boasts status as Washington's second most popular tourist attraction with a strip of restaurants and gift shops all built like a village in the Swiss Alps. The alpine setting of the area also attracts many adventuorous Washingtonians. A half dozen rafting outfits run daily trips down the white water of the Wenatchee and Tumwater, both of which feature excellent kayaking and raftin. Besides the boaters, Leavenworth attracts backpackers and hikers, who often make the twenty mile trek to view the Enchantments and the large trees, conifers which burst into glowing yellows and oranges in the autumn. After their outings on the river, their hikes on the rocky hillsides of Icicle Canyon, or listening the non-stop accordion waltz in the town green, the tourists often walk along the Bavarian fronted streets, stopping by the Munchen Haus and Kink Ludwig's to stuff themselves. Most people come to Leavenworth to eat and drink and they are fat and drunk.

Wilkommen in Leavenworth.

Some days the crashpads cover ice screws, other days ropes cover the thick foam. But most days at the Peshastin house, the climbing gear is buried beneath a pile of Olympia cans. This was the situation on a summer Saturday night, when we had a drink or two or eight and bumbled from the house just outside of Leavenworth to another climber's abode in Derby Canyon, three miles up the road. We blasted hipster dance music from tiny Ipod speakers, flicked a headlamp to strobe, and filled the night with a frenzy of limbs. At two in the morning, with a techno beat bouncing between the cherry trees and the house, the porch caved, and the entire party sunk six inches. The music skipped and then stopped. The six-person rave stared at the porch for a second. A wave of shrugs moved through the party and then the speakers jolted back to life. This crowd developed the bouldering in Leavenworth. While classic problems on the Fridge Boulder, at Mad Meadows, and a circuit around Swiftwater saw ascents as early as thirty years ago, the majority of the bouldering developed within the past decade. Just before the turn of the century, Cole Allen and Johnny Goicoechea rallied out to the east Cascades to establish a hoard of neo-classics including The Sail (v9), Mushashi (v9), Pimpsqueak (v9), and The Peephole (v10). They were joined by Kelly Sheridan, the author of a new extensive guide book, local poster boy Kyle O'Meara, and the uber-strong Joel Campbell. These boys diligently scrubbed the boulders, unearthing a series of slopers, crimps, and granite jugs. In between discovering new problems, they bouldered out many of the classic top rope problems in the area. Going ropeless on the Sword (v3), the butt puckering Ruminator (v6), and running afternoon laps on the Sleeping Lady (v2), a jug haul located directly above the raging Icicle River with death potential, became standard practice. Recently, Charlie Barrett beat a bout of excessive Guiness and a subsequent morning of the Irish Flu to establish Second Most Famous, a thirty foot double digit highball problem in the Forestland. And there a number of other airy boulders waiting for ascents. The Dick Ciley 5.12+ toprope Gutbuster, and the back side of the Sword with its 5.13 crux twenty feet off the deck are prime for the strong and bold. Beyond the highballs, a number of projects exist. A problem next to the Peephole at the popular Mad Meadows, the arete at the Carnival Boulders, the faces in Saul's Canal, and the Ladder project, are all aesthetic, double digit sickness, waiting to see first ascents.

Sick stuff.

The Leavenworth crew sat around the Canal street house eating strawberries, barbequing steaks, and drinking beer for most of the evening. By the time I arrived everyone was melting into the couches, satiated from all the food. Coaxing them into climbing seemed like a mighty task, but the mention of a lantern excited everyone, and within a few minutes we had walked down the road to the boulders above the canal, where Isaac Howard had brushed off a half dozen new problems the week before. On the arete, next to a heinously hard mantle, and a difficult project, Heel or Peel (v6), resides, taking a path of steep flat granite edges from a hole in the ground up through the arete and onto a huge jug at the top. With a few crashpads, a couple lanterns, and crisp summer night temps, the problem was in ideal conditions. Ryan Paulsness went first, burping, giggling, and slurring about drinking so much wine. He pulled, cranked, and fired through to the top of the problem. John stepped up next, and with a back full of muscle, he stayed tight to the wall, controling the vicious swing at the top of the problem. I went third and managed to wrestle my way through until I was at the mantle, where I dry humped the granite for two minutes until I finally topped out. As I descended, Jessica Campbell stepped up to the problem. She dropped her knee and bumped to the first hold. Heel hooking, she locked off on her arm and bore down on a flat edge, moving up and left to another hold. She stabbed her left leg out, eyeballed the jug at the top, and hucked. Bitty, bitty, bop! She stuck the hard swing and finished smoothly. After the caboose of our midnight send train topped out, we gathered the half dozen crashpads, the empty beer bottles, and walked to a fire on the Wenatchee, just two minutes away. The full moon reflected off the caps on the rapids as the campfire burned. We stood around laughing and slandering each other eventually, moving the conversation onto more crucial matters: where we would go climbing the next day, what new stuff we could brush off, and what problems we wanted to send.

Nothing like a good campfire slander fest.

The majority of the bouldering in Leavenworth rests in three separate locations: Icicle Canyon, Tumwater Canyon, and Mountain Home Road. In my first few days, I studied the guide, found the cutty pullouts and made the hops between the groups of boulders with little effort, eventually dialing out the exact stops. While areas like Mad Meadows, the Forestland, and Swiftwater have a denser concentraition of boulders, the best lines sit on invidual blocs and small one or two boulder clusters of steep, featured, granite. In the sping months, the forests hide the rocks but come autumn, the dense brush dies and the leaves fall, and these lines, the aesthetic arete Answer Man (v6), the difficult Swiss Project (v12), and the Lonely Fish (v9) become clearly visible from the Icicle Canyon Road. The lack of brush reveals the enormity of the climbing here. Estimating that only fifty percent of Leavenworth has been developed, Cole Allen stated, "It gives you a feeling of infinity. In the fall time there is nothing. No leaves. No flowers. And you can see thousands of boulders up the canyon." He is right. There are numerous unexplored fields of granite blocs lining the sides of Icicle Canyon. Beyond Leavenworth, enormous granite blocks sit in the clear-cuts of Goldbar. The burly road to the bouldering keeps the crowds away, though the climbing there is as good if not better than the stuff in Leavenworth. In between Goldbar and Leavenworth, a field of boulders sits high on the Skyline Ridge at Steven's Pass with a number of excellent problems. There are enormous fields of bouldering in Barclay, Skykomish Ridge, and by Lake Serene. All of which have seen little to no development yet.

The amount of climbing here is offensive.

When I arrived at the Peshastin house, a dirty Bjorn Borg was already sprawled on the living room furniture. Luckily, Max banished the dirtbag to the basement and I replaced him on the couch. I searched for work, stopping at Der Copy Shoppe, the Gingerbread factory, and Das Rad Haus. When I applied for a bussing position at the local brew pub the manager examined my resume, glanced at my academic work, and told me, “Don't you think you are overqualified?” He had obviously never seen me work. Max and Jens assured me that I could find employment. They had even found jobs, though they were not always ideal. The Fudge Hut once employed Max, having him sell chocolate and wear the local costume for Octoberfest and the tourist filled summer months. He packed fudge in his liederhosen. Eventually, I found work in town at one of the many restaurants. I boulder in the mornings, bus tables for minimum wage in the afternoons, and then bring out the lantern to climb more into the night. With gas so expensive, and my income so small, I do not have enough money to leave. But why would I want to? I am Leavenworthless.

Imagine that.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin plays the lead role in the 1936 comedy Modern Times. As the Tramp, Chaplin portrays a rascal stuck in the changing industrial world. Working on the assembely line, Chaplin becomes another cog, unable to do anything but screw on widgets. The repetitive work makes Chaplin twitch and when he walks outside of his job, he's still gyrating and spazzing from his job. When he tries talking to a girl, he blows it. She runs away when he can't help but hump the air neurotically. Funny stuff. This morning, I worked at the Icicle Ridge Winery, bottling a few hundred bottles of wine. A mobile truck came to the winery, parked outside, and took the empty bottles, filled them, and corked them. Six other people helped to box and unbox the wine. Talk about a shit load of cabarnet sauvignon!

At work the other day, Stephanie spilled a decent amount of enchillada sauce on her shirt. Unfortunately, our work shirts are all white and Steph, frantically tried to clean it off. The stain remained on the middle of her shirt along with a large dose of water. The outline of her breast was clearly visible. Sassy. John couldn't stop laughing about it and goaded her into a bit more.
"Try touching your elbows behind your back," John told her.
She did and it was awesome. I felt like I was in eigthth grade again. Funny, funny stuff. I'm gonna have to use that trick sometime.

I finished writing a 2000 word piece on Leavenworth earlier this morning. I've been working on it for the past month and a half. I'm glad to finally have it done. There's going to be an article published in the rags about the bouldering here, unfortunately the piece won't be written by me. Still, I put something together for the hell of it. I want the practice and I really like this place. Max managed to get the photo deal out of the article. I'm really pysched for him.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Adventures in Seattle

Clink. Clink. Clack. Take! Take!
Max's eyebrows stared furiously at the gri-gri. He was not amused. We had rolled up to Little Si in a crew of six: Courtney and Kelly, Cole and Joel, and Max and I. Thirty minutes into our session at Little Si, the locals, the bros and dudette from Seattle, showed up, and started assaulting the crag. The steep rhyolite, or whatever type of rock is at the crag, acts as their training ground, and a rotating group of eight to twelve climbers trampezes around the cliff Tuesday through Thursday from 4:30 to 9. Courtney and Kelly hide on the far left side of the crag while Coel and Joel worked some uber hard route in the middle of the face. Max and I stuck ourselves in the middle of the scene. Lame. My forty-three days of sport wanking at Jailhouse trained me well for this scenario. I tuned out the spray about drop kneeing, the barking dogs, and the talk of the douche bags, and managed to dog my way up the wall. Max, however, was not pysched at all. He prefers to climb when no one's around, like in the mountains and stuff man. Maybe that's why he slogs so well. I managed to convince Maxwell to belay me for a few hours and we eventually pulled out, letting the noise of the smacking carabiners and sport wankers behind.
Clink. Clink. Clack. Take! Take!

We stayed that night at Kelly's house, which is a full on climbing pad in north Seattle. Joel, Johnny G, Kelly and Michele all climb fiendishly and all live together. We barbequed some steaks, ate some awesome cilantro and lime Mission tortilla chips, and drank a few beers. Fun times. Max sprawled out on the futon in the living room and I was ready to pass out on a couple of crash pads when Michelle came in to say good night. I mumbled good night, as Michelle and Maxwell engaged in a bit of small talk. Max pointed to a big looking crashpad propped against the wall. "What's that?"
"It's a massage table," Michelle said. "I do some body work sometimes. It's really fun. I enjoy working with my hands, helping people get the kinks out of their bodies. I totally massage my friends sometimes. Don't hesitate to ask me if you ever want me to rub one out for you."
I turned into my sleeping bag and choked my giggles. Did she really say "rub one out"? Michelle left the room as I gagged on a down feather from my bag. That's when Max chuckled too. Within a minute we were roaring. Classic stuff.

The next morning, yesterday actually, Max and I rallied around the city, grabbing a bunch of gear for his upcoming two week trip to the Bugaboos. We stopped at Trader Joes' to pick up food- eggs and powerbars for me. Beer and tortellini for Max. Next at Second ascent, Max scored a pair of crampons, some approach shoes for Jens, and a funky headband/ear muff piece, a very hipster piece of clothing. Max likes to look cool when he's slogging. Then off to REI (Return Every Item) where my sponsors generously gave me my money back for the shoes I bought, and worked, six months ago. I should feel guilty about abusing the companies liberal satisfaction guarantee but my desire for a new pair of Miuras always beats the shit out of my conscience and the guilty from stealing. Maxwell also returned some shoes and got a decent amount of money in store credit...a hundred fifty bananas! Yeah sponsors! He then proceeded to waste the money on more gear for his mountain climbing- fuel canisters, a spork, and little clear canisters- which were "great storage for my uhh...medicine," he said. After that, we drove out to Redmund, stopped by Vertical World and grabbed a bunch of gear that Max and Jens had ordered and a few items that Jens had left with his friend, including his pot, the small round metal kind.
All the driving around the city, Trader Joes to Second Ascent to REI to Redmund, tweaked me out quite a bit. I recently started driving again. Max left my last car on the side of the road in Yosemite about 5 years ago and for the entire time I was in Santa Cruz, I was rigless. I don't have much driving experience and frankly, I hate being behind the wheel. When we hit traffic on the five, I nearly lost it. Serious road rage. Who can deal with all those damn cars anyways?
Beep. Beep. Boop. Honk! Honk!