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Back to the Buttermilks

Sometimes it’s easy to think about how pointless climbing is – how in both the grand scheme and in individual moments we risk precarious battle against gravity only to arrive back where we started, no worse for wear but wearing worse our sunburned wrinkles.

In Bishop you will not think those things.

Gabe sticking the big move before the lip on Xavier's Roof (V11)

Though the trip from the Bay Area is long, the vast and wandering California landscape never fails to keep the mind occupied.

An eastern California basin filled with a lake of cloud

Winding our way south through desolate valleys and sharp passes, we came to the edge of a colossal basin, filled to the brim with a heavy cloud. The scene felt as though one could walk to the edge, ladle in hand and dip into a divine, icy elixir.

After stopping to take in the a once-in-a lifetime sight, we moved on, descending right into the tool fog of the cloud on our way to the Buttermilks.

The main Buttermilk area is a speckled maze of massive warped granite spheres. These plump boulders keep watch over a naked desert meadow. A snow striped Sierra backdrop never escapes the corner of your eye. Aside from the feeling of walking into an artist’s creation when setting foot on the crunchy trail, the convocation of granite Bishops planted there by the Rock Gods yields a collection of sculpted problems that keep the congregation of boulderers content.

After shaking the car ride cobwebs and waking our muscles on some perfect warm ups we wasted no time getting right to business.

Gabe warmimg up on one of the most classic V4s you'll ever find: Ironman Traverse

Our first stop was Junior Achievement, a true crimpfest culminating in a stab at a deep detached flake.

Crimp style on Junior Achievement (V8)

I could feel a new layer of my spoiled skin getting shredded on every attempt. But I was close and stuck with it until I nailed down a truly desperate send.

Gabe said it best regarding Junior Achievement, “You’ve got to pay for that one.” Without fresh pads, the problem would have probably been too painful to fully commit to the sharp pulls.

We then cruised over to Soul Slinger, a tension and body position test piece involving desperate rounded friction pinches on a blunt arete and a minuscule key left hand crimp. Gabe has been working the problem for a year and gave it a good cleaning with the most sophisticated brush tool I’ve ever seen. Don’t tell him, but I’m planning on stealing the idea and selling mass produced brush/blow kits.

Prepping Soul Slinger (V9) for the send. Genius.

In exciting fashion, Gabe put the problem to bed for a seriously proud send and day 1 was in the books. A fast start.

On day 2 we left the beaten path for Dale’s Camp, another set of incredible Buttermilk boulders that sat in a field of crusty snow.

Stream crossing on the trek to Dale's Camp

We started with a visit to Xavier’s Roof (V11).

Entering the crux of Xavier's Roof

The tough problem was described to me as the best V8 in Bishop followed by an incredibly hard top out. I had a great time working the line to the last couple moves and gave the crux a couple burns before deciding to save some energy for problems more in my reach.

Gabe crossing through on the lower half of Xavier's Roof

After touring a few other tough problems, we ended at Solitaire. The V8 boils down to 2 huge left hand throws on good ledges. The problem was definitely not my style, especially after two days of climbing hard, but provided some quality fun.

Dinner was in order and Uncle Bob’s famous salsa, guacamole and a bottle of mead put us into insta-coma for the night.

Ryan throwing for the top on Solitaire (V8)

In November I left Flyboy (V8) blistered, sore, depleted and unsent. After numerous attempts using a set of beta that played to my weaknesses, I had discovered a path that eliminated the need for a giant right-hand chuck to the lip, instead utilizing a small crimp, repositioning and finishing with a left-hand toss. I knew exactly what to do, but fatigue won the day. I’ve been dreaming of a return trip since and we made the short hike first thing on day 3. After a brief warm up, we threw down our pads, I tossed on my shoes, thought through the moves, dusted my tips with chalk and fired it off first go.

Catching the top crimp on Flyboy Sit (V8)

The rest of the day was pure bonus and we celebrated an awesome trip with a flask of whiskey. Gabe wasn’t sure what kind, but he assured me it wasn’t Evan Williams – a bit disappointing but I managed.

Gabriel loves the Buttermilks like I was addicted to Eldo in my Boulder days. He knows the area very well, climbs hard and has fun. Send or no send he’s always smiling and sharing a laugh. It was great getting to know him and a bunch of his friends during the long weekend. I’m lucky to have friends willing to give me the tour of their favorite areas. It’s always better to experience a new destination with someone who’s genuinely enthusiastic about the place and appreciative of how lucky we are to climb. Hopefully a return to the Buttermilks is in the cards soon!

Ron James Propri - Great post, Adam. Looks like a place I would love to play in!January 23, 2013 – 9:41 am

kris - Looks like an awesome trip – notwithstanding the lack of Mr. Evan William’s warm, if slightly antagonistic, fermented mash. A nice showcase of some problems I haven’t had the pleasure of examining yet. That shot of the clouds was sublime.January 23, 2013 – 4:56 pm

Fred - Great report and beautiful pictures!January 25, 2013 – 5:50 pm

Adam Scheer - Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad people liked this post. I always appreciate the conversation.January 25, 2013 – 9:00 pm

Tyler - Dang… that stuff looks tough. Nice work, and great photos and writupJanuary 26, 2013 – 1:42 pm

kris - I forgot to add how much I enjoyed the writing – particularly in the opening paragraphs. Great storytelling, Adam.January 28, 2013 – 11:23 am

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January Slopers

When somebody from Iceland asks if you want to go bouldering in the shade on a day with highs in the mid 40s, the correct answer is yes. Though more than a few excuses came to mind when Arnór (nickname Addi) floated the idea of a session at misty Castle Rock, the pull of actual stone outweighed any apprehension I had about my poor frozen toes. Escaping couch gravity for a day outside is almost always a good idea.

So close but so far away. So really, so far away. Static Reach (V8).

Castle Rock offers exactly the kind of climbing that makes me look like a soft, flabby noob with lunch lady arms. Giant slopers, friction heel hooks, compression – short, stout problems. I need practice.

The Castle Rock forest.

The redeeming thing about cold weather is excellent friction. We spent the first part of the day at a fun and committing V5, one of the few tall lines at Castle. We then visited Static Reach (V8), a maddening slap problem over a bulge that feels impossible. Every time you fall, it’s directly on your side or back. After a while I was tired of getting beat up and was happy to let Addi try to work through the beta.

Addi scoping out his options on Static Reach.

I’d been to Castle Rock twice before, but this was the first time primarily bouldering instead of roped climbing. The locals look at you a little funny if you head there to climb. Though there are some decent sport routes, and even a few trad lines, the high quality lines are almost all boulder problems.

Soft sandstone crimp

The green and brown forest landscape dotted with spots of sun solving the canopy maze also makes Castle Rock a great place for hiking and getting out of the Bay Area pavement jungle. It’s nice to have something fun nearby for a day trip.

Every exposed surface is a green magnet at Castle Rock, including the trees

Thanks to Addi for an awesome day. It looks like I only have frostbite on my pinkie toes. They’re worthless anyway. A respite from crowded chalk clouds surrounding plastic for a day was well worth it.

Finally, for some quality laughs, meet Juanitas, my next door neighbor and new bestie. These days she’s clocking in around 10 kgs (that’s 570 in cat pounds). As you’ll see, she loves a good back scratch – pure ecstasy:

Tyler - That place looks very… medieval. And that cat is ridiculous.January 26, 2013 – 1:45 pm

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The Best of 2012

Coming home to Nebraska for the holidays always gives me many things to relish – seeing family and friends, Christmas Eve spent drinking mead and filling Mom’s living room to the roof with wrapping paper, getting schooled at 8-ball by Dad, climbing at the UNL wall, coffee shops done right and watching all the well-fed red-decked Husker fans waddling about just to name a few.

People are good folks around here. It’s the day after Christmas and the woman behind the counter at Panera almost teared up with a smile that highlighted well-worn crow’s feet when I gave her a $1 tip for a cup of tea. (Maybe tipping at Panera is not the norm?)

After a snowless year, the bright reflections in sun-covered Nebraska ice are clear moments to remember a year full of changes.

At every fork, most stay on the highway, but dirt roads eventually siphon us away from the same path. The difference can be imperceptible until we take a breath and truly think about the massive changes time dictates.

Will is in Alaska. Ryan is in Maryland. Janice is in Vancouver. Lizz is in Florida. I am in California. The dusty trails lead to new highways and we travel far from each other’s daily lives. What once were close empathetic connections quickly become summaries of events, the emotions that filled the gaps making them real left to the imagination.

But it’s OK. These are the choices we make. In the end we only answer to ourselves.

What I love most about my group of friends, near and far, is simple. When I do get the chance to see them, to look them in the eyes, it’s as though no time has passed. I know when I see any one of them that they know me, not for the things I’ve done like some timeline obituary, but for who I am – the ideas, the sense of humor, the ways of thinking and the imperfections that make a person.

Many of my friends share a love of the outdoors and climbing. Inspired by Eli, Ron, Charlie and other great photographers I’m privileged to observe, I’ve tried to become better behind a lens. Below are some of my favorite photos of the year, highlighted again here, with the benefit of ClimbingHouse’s new format. A good photo can put you somewhere, give you a feeling of the exposure, the heat, the elements, the smell of Joshua Tree dust or the chill of Eldo in a Blizzard. A good photo isn’t worth 1000 words. A good photo is worth elevendy or even twelvendy billion words.

I hope 2013 will bring more experiences like those depicted here.

Andrew washing up in Yosemite's Merced River after The Rostrum

Sunset at Big Sur

Hamish leading Tombstone Terror at Lover's Leap

Castle Rock Relic

Kris leading AC Devil Dog at the Grotto

Lake Melones viewed from The Grotto

Chris Kalman leading the unbelievable Pitch 3 of The Rostrum

The vast Joshua Tree landscape

Tuolumne Meadows

David and Lenny climbing The Headstone at Joshua Tree

Kris taking a spin on Midnight Lightning

Laughlin cruising the spectacular pitch 3 of OZ to the Gram Traverse

Exploring Yosemite (Photo Andrew Kuklinski)

Climbing over sunset at Mickey's Beach

Tyler - Great photos, and it was great to see you over the holidays. I’m looking forward to 2013, and being able to get out to visit.January 12, 2013 – 12:48 am

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Giving Thanks for Bishop

Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, gravy, choclolates, gravy and gravy. The gluttony is usually shared with family. But sometimes fighting over the last cup of gravy can be intense. So this year, with the help of Kris, Sara and many new friends, we celebrated with bouldering and climbing in one of California’s world class destinations, Bishop. Check out some photos from a truly amazing place.

The scene at the Buttermilks: Kris taking a spin on High Plains Drifter (V7)

Over the four-day weekend, we sampled bits and pieces of several phenomenal areas, including The Happies, The Buttermilks and Owens River Gorge sport climbing. A description of all the amazing lines we visited would type my fingers raw, so only a few highlights will occupy this page.

Day 1 flapper = Bad news

Above all, I’ll remember the trip for the great people who became fast friends. Kris and Sara are part of an outstanding group of climbers based in LA. They are too many to mention here, and they do things right. On Thanksgiving night, after getting torn up at The Happies, we returned to camp. There, every square inch of the picnic table was filled with traditional Thanksgiving feast, including plenty of gravy. Not really knowing anyone, I was hesitant to dig in, but they insisted that we share in the meal and basically forced a massive turkey leg into my paw. Several pounds of mashed potatoes and a couple gallons of gravy later, I barely had room for the homemade pumpkin, apple and pecan pies they brought for desert. A spare third turkey was on reserve and the deep fat frier kept hot in case we ran out of bird. After the pie sampler platter I took in, my innie snapped into an outie with a massive pop that sounded like a gunshot and echoed through the mountains. At least it’s easier to wash now. After the excitement, Evan Williams around the bonfire kept us warm into the night and the spotlight moon put the high Sierra backdrop in the forefront.

Thanksgiving night in Bishop

We began Friday back in the sharp pockets of French Connection, a techy V6 with a tough, reachy crux from a shallow basketball-sized sidepull. The line matches Sara’s style and she made great progress, giving the problem several inspired attempts. She’s bouldering strong and was already dreaming of the next session during the hike down.

Sara, who loves nothing more than warming up with a hot cup of coffee and a cozy winter coat in the middle of July, then took off for work in Chicago. I’m happy to report that she made it back to the LA sauna alive and much better at ice skating 😉

Sara + Shade = Sad

After the day in the Happies, the Buttermilks were next on tap. The Buttermilks are a playground of phenomenal, rounded boulders with all types of problems. Most lines are nice and high but benefit from large, flat landings. The area overflows with possibilities for anybody with a pair of climbing shoes. But if a diamond exists among the gems it may be High Plains Drifter. Incredible. The top photo is all you need to know.

With two days of hard bouldering in the books, we decided to explore some of the outstanding sport climbing down the road at Owens River Gorge with Joi and Asa, a couple awesome new friends and excellent climbers to boot.

Joi and Asa checking out an ORG relic

The ORG volcanic rock yields techy vertical routes of choose your own adventure horizontal slots and edges. It’s a gym climber’s dream.

We warmed up on a couple 5.10s and I couldn’t believe how sore my forearms were. There was no shaking the previous two days of try hard. Opening my autolocker, tying my shoes or scratching my hairy outie made my tendons feel brittle. Somehow I fought through an enduro 5.11 clean and I thought that would be the highlight of the day. Kris had other ideas and we wandered farther into the endless grey canyon.

Joi leading Owens River Gorge 5.11

Eldorado roof sticks out like a sore thumb among the vertical ORG terrain. The black alien wall is another of the climbing gods’ gift to the Bishop faithful. I was content to just marvel at the sight and dream of future dates with the intimidating lines. But one particular climb captivated Kris and he took the sharp end on the unknown route. Though the Gorge hosted many climbers, we had the tough lines of Eldorado Roof to ourselves.

Kris leading the way through the pumpy undercling traverse of Godzilla Does The Dizzy Tango (5.12)

After Joi followed suit, sending the line, I felt like a kid champing at the bit on the sideline while his soccer team struggles in a tough match. There was no denying reality. My forearms were just going to have to suffer through the awesome climb. I had the benefit of watching both Kris and Joi decipher the bouldery start and the huge undercling roof traverse and my mental notes paid off with a feel good flash.

The lower boulder problem crux on Godzilla Does The DIzzy Tango (5.12)

That night the PBR Kris bought at the Bishop grocer tasted like fine wine around the campfire with more new friends, Miguel, Matthias and company, who were kind enough to indulge my ever progressing Spanish. I returned the favor by TeAchINg Them a couple necessary English words.

Mt. Tom is King of Bishop

One more day was in order at the Buttermilks and we spent much of it at Flyboy, a crimpy V8 on an overhang that leads to a monster throw at the top. Kris, Joi and I were all very close, but couldn’t quite put it to rest. I think with a fresh go, we’d all send it in short order. As it stands, it’s a major motivator to get back. We all took huge falls from the top and the blanket of pads and spotters proved essential. Kris had the worst of it. After actually latching the top on his very first go, his heel poped trying to pull the lip and he came off straight sideways from about 15 feet. His feet touched down on a slanted neighboring face and I was convinced we’d be carrying him out. Fortunately, Kris was able to walk it off with no issue.

Joi going for a ride on Flyboy (V8) Photo: Kris Linstrom

Finally, I was really impressed with the town of Bishop. I expected the town to be a twin of Canon City near Shelf Road. But Bishop is much more progressive and even caters to the climber crowd. After a day on the rock, we would head to town for pizza, Mexican food or a surprisingly good Chinese meal. Coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries line the main strip and the local radio station plays classic Dylan, Springsteen, Petty and Floyd. Just in case you ever visit Bishop and are in search of climbing partners, I put together a tool to help you locate climbers in the area:

I’ve recently joined the puffy club. (Thanks for the birthday present, Kim!) I have to say, my fears were true – now that I have a puffy, I’ll never go back.

Welcome to the world, Leo Michael Powell. Congratulations Eli and Amy. A crusher in the making.

Ron James Propri - Great post, Adam, nice photos. I really want to get to Bishop – looks awesome!December 3, 2012 – 11:26 pm

Eli - Thanks for the post Adam. I was laughing out loud. Talk to you soon.December 4, 2012 – 10:40 am

kris - Awesome recap and analysis, Adam! I wanna do it all again tomorrow.December 4, 2012 – 1:13 pm

Adam Scheer - Thanks guys. I had fun with this one.December 5, 2012 – 2:09 pm

Sara Konecky - Adam you are hilarious :)December 6, 2012 – 10:00 am

Will Oviatt - This rock looks amazing! Gotta love the Day 1 flappers!December 22, 2012 – 11:57 am

Jones sabo tremendous crimson cherries - Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it! Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely helpful information specially the last part :)April 12, 2013 – 1:03 am

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Stone Between Graveyards

I had just returned home from a graveyard shift. It was noon on Friday and I hadn’t slept in almost 30 hours. Another graveyard loomed starting at 10 pm on Sunday night. My plan for the weekend involved sleeping, naps and siestas. So when I checked my email over a blurry lunch before crashing I felt a melancholic twinge to see Kris had sent me a note to inquire if a spontaneous Yosemite trip might find its way on my weekend radar.

Kris sending Atlantis (V6)

I didn’t reply immediately for fear of typing some incomprehensible jibble. Somewhere inside maybe I also left the door cracked open just in case my liver started leaking pure caffeine into my bloodstream. When I woke up around 6 pm, I gave Kris a call and said the only logical thing, “I’m in.”

Day one was filled to the brim with what I call ‘ground work.’ We started in the Camp 4 boulders and gave Thriller (V10) a couple hours of effort before diminishing returns became steeper than muscle memory. Kris has been close on the classic line before, but some further refining is necessary for both of us. For me, some horse steroids wouldn’t hurt either.

We then wandered downstream to the tough V9, Heart of Darkness, a problem with a huge stopper move that we just couldn’t latch.

A V9 throw on Heart Of Darkness after a finger-intensive traverse

On our way we ran into Jonathan Siegrist and Tommy Caldwell who were gearing up for work on The Dawn Wall. In case you haven’t heard, the never ending 5.13/5.14 big wall climbing on the El Cap monster has been the subject of obsession for Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson and now Siegrist, some of America’s (and the world’s) best. The vertical, technique-heavy, heady climbing is a futuristic, old school line. I’ve known Jonathan for several years, dating back to my time in Boulder and it’s been fun to keep track of his adventures. I have a ton of respect for his work ethic, determination and talent, not to mention that he’s genuinely an awesome guy. He always shows interest in what others are climbing and he’s always encouraging of others’ goals. Hearing about their continued work on the Dawn Wall first hand was an inspiration.

After repeated attempts on Heart of Darkness Kris and I decided further bouldering would be a declining endeavor. So logically we threw on our harnesses and visited Empire, a 5.13 sport route with a couple vicious boulder problems. The first is an all points off dyno. The second is a desperately thin problem of counter pressure off of razor blades. Neither of us could pass the second test and as darkness fell, a shot of Evan Williams lightened our day.

Though no sends were to be had, the day of groundwork was nonetheless fun and we’re both looking forward to revisiting all of the lines. This is one of the things I appreciate most about climbing with Kris. He doesn’t back away from a challenge, physically or mentally. Sometimes taking the plunge is the only way to find out what your made of and what you need to work to get better.

A beautiful Yosemite Fall (Picture: Kris Linstrom)

The entire trip we were taken aback by the amazing Yosemite Fall setting. Yellow filled the valley and the stream of tourists had long dried out along with the nonexistent Yosemite Falls. We were more than happy to take advantage of the sparse crowd and had no problem nabbing a Camp 4 site on Saturday.

On Sunday we visited Cookie Cliff and did both pitches of one of the most spectacular hand cracks you’ll ever see, Outer Limits. That climb is infinitely repeatable.

Kris leading Pitch 1 of Outer Limits (5.11a)

Despite being a bit sore and tired, we had to finish the trip on the beautiful dihedral, Cookie Monster. The first pitch is airy 5.12a and was the perfect challenge. Managing an onsight definitely made the upcoming graveyard seem a little more rosy.

Cookie Monster (5.12a)

The week before, my Mom, also named Kris, visited me in the Bay Area and we had a great time. We hiked in Muir Woods, spent an amazing afternoon in Berkeley’s Botanical Gardens, enjoyed some of the phenomenal cuisine the Bay has to offer and of course played a couple rounds of golf. She wouldn’t admit it, but she is a fantastic golfer.

Mom crushing some foggy morning golf.

I rarely have the chance to do those things and having her here for a long weekend was the perfect reason to relax and have a blast.

On another note, as you’ve probably noticed, ClimbingHouse has embarked upon Version 3.0. Check out the links on top as well as the navigation tools on the left side of the page.  If you’re impressed with an article, share it using the tools below.   Space for pictures has increased and the site is less cluttered. Thanks to Eli for these changes. His work behind the scenes continues to make ClimbingHouse a home for us all.

Eli - Sick!November 28, 2012 – 8:28 am

Tyler - This reminds me of when I was busy working a bit too much a few years back. You got me outside to climb a few times, and it was pretty important to me. It’s awesome that you’re making it out to work some hard stuff, despite a tough schedule. Those climbs look sweet, keep it up, and nice job on the .12 onsite!November 29, 2012 – 1:45 am

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This Can’t Last

Wow, getting out twice in as many weeks.  Tyler & Andrew & I took the winding road into Boulder Canyon this weekend for some late season climbing.  Here’s a short photo journal from our day…boulder canyon overview photoAndrew flipping through Boulder Canyon Guide BookGetting ready to climb in Boulder CanyonClimbing rack hanging on treeracking up for trad climb in boulder canyonclimbing in boulder canyoncool rock in boulder canyontyler racking up for sport climbing in Boulder canyonSport climbing in boulder canyontyler dynoing on sport climbclimber looking up at rockflapper- an injured finger in rock climbingrock climbing in boulder canyonhiking out of boulder canyon

Rock On!~ Eli

Doug - Very nice, Eli. Great lighting!November 18, 2012 – 8:55 pm

Tyler - Awesome photos, Eli, thank you.November 18, 2012 – 10:16 pm

Emily - Hard core. :)November 19, 2012 – 11:25 am

Andrew Kuklsinki - I was a great day out with you guys!!! Thanks for the pics Eli!November 19, 2012 – 10:54 pm

Eli - Thanks for all the kind words. Had a blast with you guys, talk to you soon.November 20, 2012 – 11:49 am

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