Saturday, December 6, 2014

Getting Psyched for Bishop with some old footage.

Tomorrow we get back on the road and head to Bishop.  Psyched to be back there and circuit the old classics and maybe even manage some new problems.  Here are a couple older videos from previous years.  I should make some more of these.












Thursday, December 4, 2014

Castle Valley: I want to climb that.

"Because it's there" was George Mallory's famous reply to the question of why he wanted to climb Everest.  The question itself might seem a bit preposterous to some climbers as it can be hard to understand how someone can see a towering peak, jutting pillar or any similar formation and not want to be on top.  That seeming innate desire had me scrambling up buildings, trees and rocks as a small boy and when I grew older it transitioned to hiking up mountains just to be rewarded with a grand view.  So when I eventually found climbing it would seem that it would take me to new heights, but instead that initial desire to simply reach the highest point quickly morphed to include finding the most striking and/or difficult line and over time I was standing on fewer and fewer summits until eventually I reached the point where I'd exert days of effort to crawl out of some 10 foot hole covered in graffiti.  It's an interesting place to end up.  

Now don't get me wrong, I love bouldering and have no intention of forsaking my beloved pebbles but there is a yearning when visiting certain places that makes me want to put aside the pad and tie in to a rope.  There are features that are so impressive in scope, contrast, ascetics and/or magnitude that they beckon like sirens, appealing to that fledgling climber that like Mallory felt the need to climb it simply because it's there.  I'd know the big walls of Yosemite or perhaps the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas might come to mind for many but if you're not willing to commit the time/effort or lack the expertise necessary there are some dessert towers that will appeal to the "Mallory" in us.

Though lacking the commitment of El Cap and on a much smaller scale Castleton Tower in Utah's Castle Valley just begs to be climbed.  There are plenty of towers in the area but this one stands out as it stands imposingly, demanding your attention.  The first time I drove through the valley I was captivated by Castleton and felt the urge to stand on top of it.  Of course having dedicated myself to bouldering all these years I had to recruit someone capable of helping me to the top and luckily for me my sister Prairie has become an excellent trad-climber.  So it was with great excitement that I joined my sister to bag a tower for what has been a highlight of my 15 years of climbing.

It's easy to see why Castleton is a "must do" for climbers visiting the region.  And while I can't help but want to stand on top of such formations this desire is not shared by all.  When asked, my sister Heather replied with no hesitation that she had zero desire to see the view from the top of Castleton.  I'll share my pictures with her though just in case. 

The hike to the base was fairly casual and took roughly 40 minutes.  Prairie had done Castleton a couple years earlier and said the trail was much better now.  Even if you got off the trail you'd have to be dumb or blind to actually get lost.  "Does anyone know how to find the massive tower?"

At the base of Castleton.  A note to those going for a winter assent of pretty much anything in the northern hemisphere, if the high temperature for the day is going to be just just a few degrees above freezing it is best to avoid routes with the word "north" in their name.  As I mentioned earlier Prairie had done Castleton a couple years earlier via the classic Kor-Ingals route.  Wanting to take an alternative route to the top she opted for 5.8 on the other side of the tower and I foolishly followed....  The first pitch of the North Gully is superb climbing in an ascetically pleasing dihedral but I couldn't appreciate any of it as my hands were so cold I had to fight the urge to vomit while I wondered how long it takes for frostbite to set in.  Seriously though, my hands have never been colder and I really felt like vomiting.  When I finally joined my sister at the anchor after climbing the first pitch we chuckled about how miserable we were and how we had never thought it possible to have to try so hard on a 5.8.  When the blood flowed back into my hands along with the feeling best described as the "screaming barfys" (you want to both scream and barf simultaneously) we decided it was best to just rappel down and go around to the sunny side and do Kor-Ingals.  I must say that while I was jamming my numb meat-hooks into the freezing crack I couldn't help but be impressed with my sister.  Not only did she lead with absolutely no feeling in her hands but she belayed me up the first pitch thinking we'd continue climbing through icy hell.  Or maybe she just wanted me to expericne the same suffering she just went through.  Either way I was happy to have had that miserable experience and even happier that we bailed and went to climb in the sun. 

Prairie racking up.  Needless to say, things went great once with got in the sun.  We danced up Kor-Ingals wondering how we could have been so dumb.  Live and learn.

The mandatory summit photo. 

The view on top for my sister Heather (just in case).  And there are some more towers I'd like to stand on.  

The beauty of climbing like this is the gratification you get when you get to a remote place.  It might not require great strength but even an easy climb can be an adventure and give a sense of fulfillment much greater than sending a V-hard boulder problem.  Maybe the reason I explore and develop so much is that it is a way to instill that sense of adventure that is generally lacking in bouldering.

Castleton casting a shadow.  Clearly this tower was happy to see me.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Malibu Bouldering Video: Malibu Creek and Tunnel Boulders

We are still in Malibu waiting for a spell of bad weather to pass and I used my time to throw together a little video.  The footage is from various years (you might notice the haircut) and highlights a couple problems that are worth doing it in the area.

One of the problems is located in Malibu Creek State Park which is known primarily for it's sport climbing on steep volcanic tuff but has a bit of bouldering.  Chubbs (aka the Malibu Roof) is hands down the best problem there and is a saut after test piece for Los Angeles Climbers.

The other problems in the video are from the Tunnel Boulders that sit just north of the tunnel in Malibu Canyon.  Unlike Malibu Creek this area is a soft sandstone and while some of boulders are super solid most of the climbing is on friable rock and the problems are "evolving" as the area gets more traffic.  Regardless, there are some good climbs to be done.

Hope you enjoy the video.  And for those that don't pick up the quote at the start, drop everything and go watch The Big Lebowski  right now.



Malibu Bouldering: Malibu Creek and the Tunnel Boulders from Walker Kearney on Vimeo.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Life's a Beach: Hanging and Bouldering in the 'Bu

Since leaving Moab about a week ago we've been hanging at my Grandmother's place in Malibu.  There is a fair amount of climbing in the area but we spent our time mostly hanging with family and preparing for the impending celebration of gluttony that is Thanksgiving.  Now that we have eaten ourselves stupid it's time to hit the rocks and try to recover from the food coma.

We're still figuring out our plans for the next couple of weeks but as long as weather cooperates our options are wide open.  Yosemite? Bishop?  Black Mt?  Santa Barbara?  Hang in Malibu?  Until we make a decision we'll be hanging and climbing around Malibu.

Here are a few pictures of bouldering and beaching around the 'bu.  The bouldering photos are actually from last year and feature my friend Robert (everyone misses you.  Come back!).


 Sunrise at Malibu

 The view from Tutu's porch.  Life if good.

Prairie nearing the end of a sweet problem at the Tunnel Boulders in Malibu Canyon

Robert on Crocodile Rock, The Tunnel Boulders

Robert on Purple Prow at Purple Stone in Topanga Canyon

One of my favorite problems at Purple Stone.  Don't remember the name but it is awesome.

Robert finding a hold at Purple Stone.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Getting High on the Chaos Boulder

I had mentioned earlier that Big Bend has one of the better boulders I've climbed on in North America.  It's rare to find a boulder that packs such a punch as the Chaos Boulder boasts 5 problems that would be classic anywhere (Circus Trick, Hell Belly, Chaos, Phantom Fighter, Grim Reacher Left) and a number of bonus filler problems.  

Grim Reacher Left is one of the classic lines on the boulder but it doesn't seem to get much traffic as the height deters most suitors.  Fortunately for me my budy Kyle showed up so we got to try the problem with adequate foam.  

Christmas came early when Kyle rolled up to the boulders

Just high enough to play with your nerves.  I took a few tried to commit

Early move

Firing the crux deadpoint/dyno.

Kyle on the victory jug of a great problem.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Moab Bouldering: Big Bend

Moab isn't known for it's bouldering.  People flock here for mountain-biking, trad-climbing and beautiful desert scenery but the bouldering still seems to be under the radar which is kind of surprising as the rock is good, accessible and unlimited.  Of course the thing that is lacking is development and spray but I reckon it is only a matter of time before this region starts getting an influx of pad-people as the potential is too good to be ignored for much longer.

While there is a multitude of neglected rock around Moab a small bit of bouldering does get plenty of traffic.  The Big Bend boulders alone are too small to be destination worthy but they serve as a sweet stopover for traveling climbers or a weekend spot for those within striking distance.  There is a high concentration of quality problems and maybe one of the best boulders in North America.  

Last winter while passing through I salivated at the boulders littering the hillsides and I stopped briefly at Big Bend for a little climbing fix.  I decided I needed to return to this region to do some exploring and try a few of Big Bend's offerings I never got around to.

Here is a small sampling from this years return to the Big Bend boulders and a little video of a couple classics from last year (in case you missed it).


The Colorado River winds through the canyon it carved and boulders can be found everywhere.  I do wish I had a boat as ripe boulder fields mock me the opposite riverbank.   

Big Bend is just one small cluster but the only place that gets any serious traffic.  Access is ridiculously easy and most visitors talk about how good it is but few bother to wander beyond the confines of the established area.  I promise there is lots more that is just as good.

Oskar joins us for a quick morning session to sample one of Moab's classic problems.

Prairie about to gun it on Silly Wabbit 

Looking up from the boulders makes me want to get a rope and see what's on the top of that tower.

Scoopula, One of Big Bend's hard classics that proved too much for us.

Quality climbing in a beautiful dessert setting.

Kyle fires a neglected classic.  Black Angus is one of the better problems at Big Bend and took us a bit to figure out.

The stellar Hell Belly is a compression climber's dream.  I'd like to do the proper line from the sit but wonder if I got the juice.

Chaos is another amazing problem.  Big Bend really packs them in.


And here is the video from last year.  More to come.
Moab Bouldering: Big Bend from Walker Kearney on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Life in America.

So we been Stateside for a couple weeks now but still haven't quite "hit the road".  We've been using this time to visit family and slowly transition to life in an RV.  The weather has also cooled down considerably since our arrival and my little family, not being as climbing obsessed as me, appreciates the prolonged stay in my sister's warm house.  Fortunately the sun is shining and the road is calling so we'll be leaving for a week of bouldering and tower bagging around Moab.  Good times will be had.

Here's some pictures from our adventures thus far.


You can see fellow passengers cringe when our little family lumbers onto a plane.  Unfortunately for them it's too late to upgrade from coach but the good news is our kids are rock-stars when it comes to flying.  I almost always receive compliments on my kids when exiting the plane as people say they barely noticed their presence.  I like to think it's the excellent parenting but we may have just hit the lottery. 


The perks of seeing Fart-fart (aka Grandfather).  The sugar intake is definitely up.

And Farmor (Grandmother) with the obligatory pie in Pie Town.

My little family with Farmor in Pie Town

Björke gets used to an American breakfast.

Breakfast burrito.  Oh how I missed you.

The new whip.  We are borrowing this 21 foot Toyota Dolphin from Fart-fart.  Traveling in comfort and style.  Here we are in perhaps the lamest monument in the world, 4-corners.  We were unwilling to pay $5 each to see a spot where arbitrary lines meet.

The crew in Moab, UT

The Aunties meet their nephew for the first time 

Moab is beautiful.  We'll be hanging around for a bit.  

Climbing posts up next......