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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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Eldo in a Blizzard

Here’s a photo journal from a fall/ winter day in Eldorado Canyon…hiking across the bridge in Eldorado state pack, coloradowater drops on foilage in ColoradoFall foilage blowing in the wind in Eldorado state parkClimber looking up at rock in Eldoradorock climbing equipment laying on rockClimber praparing for rock climb in ColoradoClimber sitting around before rock climbputting climbing shoes on in Eldorado State ParkTraditional rock climbing in ColoradoClimber in Eldorado state parkstorm moving in during rock climbingClimbingbelaying in the snow in ColoradoPine trees covered in snowTree growing out of rockstaring up at the snow after rock climbinghiking out of Eldorado in the snowhiking across the bridge in Eldorado state pack, colorado

There is always an excuse.  I’m too busy, or lazy, or the weather is bad, etc.  This day was awesome for me because it made me feel like I was taking back my life from all the excuses.  Rock on… ~Eli

Emily - Can’t tell you how nostalgic your photos made me feel. I miss the mountains and rock climbing and eldo. Thanks for the post and it seemed like a fantastic day! What beautiful, fluffy snow flakes!!!! What was the temperature?November 12, 2012 – 6:42 am

Eli - Hey Emily,
Glad you enjoyed it. I really tried to take this photos from a first hand perspective, like you’re the one there. It was pretty nice (maybe 50 degrees) at the start of the day, and got progressively colder. When we hiked out, my hands were going numb in the open air.November 12, 2012 – 7:57 am

Adam Scheer - Thanks, Eli.

I felt like I was there. Man would I love to spend a couple sunny winter hours climbing the roof routes. Seeing the rock there brings back so many memories. I know exactly how it feels, smells, sounds being right there.

I’m glad you guys stuck it out for a good day.November 12, 2012 – 11:00 pm

Andrew - Wish I could have been there with you guys. The snow looks like it was fun to experience! Eli, it’s good to hear things are falling into place.

By the way, I like the new look on Climbinghouse.November 12, 2012 – 11:08 pm

Kate - Great post- the pictures are fantastic! I love the progression. Rock on!November 12, 2012 – 11:30 pm

Eli - Thanks for all the kind words guys. Talk to you soon. ~ENovember 13, 2012 – 7:05 am

ryan - Beautiful. Makes me miss this place. And these people.November 13, 2012 – 8:18 am

Kris Scheer - Loved the story , great pictures…. no dialogue required.November 13, 2012 – 9:40 pm

Lizzle - I like the new format, Eli! One thing though that I miss about the old format is knowing who is the writer of the post at the top. Could you add that back in?

Great photos & I’m glad to hear you’re not letting those excuses run your life!November 15, 2012 – 9:55 pm

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From Grotto Basalt to Valley Granite

Fall has arrived in California. Almost overnight the air became sharp and the leaves crisp. Usually this is the perfect time for a Yosemite trek, but rain in The Valley sent us to plan B. Fortunately, the Grotto basalt is great for a day away from Yosemite and stays dry with the protection of a massive overhang.

Kris making it look easy on AC Devil Dog (5.10d).

Having climbed there several sessions now, I enjoyed the day more for introducing Andrew and Kris to some of the truly unique climbs.
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Lucas - Glad to see some images from the Grotto. Haven’t been there in years! Quite the Gem.October 22, 2012 – 2:43 pm

Tyler - Sounds awesome, I hope I can make it out to visit soon!October 22, 2012 – 7:59 pm

Kate - Looks like a great time! You’re becoming quite the photographer, Adam!November 12, 2012 – 11:33 pm

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