Sunday, May 31, 2009


Not a lot to report from L-town besides a growing psyche for the upcoming trip to the Stikine Ice Cap in SE Alaska. Max and I have recieved incredible support from Leavenworth Mountain Sports (best shop in the east!!), Black Diamond, and Pro Mountain Sports (best shop in the west!). I just want to thank you all so much...we'll see what happens out there.

Me looking really dorky with the 1997 issue of climbing that sparked my interest in the Burkett Needle. Dreams do come true!

Although I don't have a lot of climbing news, that doesn't mean I haven't been getting after it. Sol and I took another shot at the L-Town 15 and failed again. Not to say we didn't have fun. To push yourself in this sport is to accept failure and laugh about how much you are getting your butt kicked at certain times. We nailed 13 of the routes and felt good about the project. Hopefully next year we can claim all 15. I sincerely hope some of these routes see traffic in the future. Hard climbing is not the norm in L-town, but it's out there. Seek and ye shall find...check out Sol's great trip report about the L-town 15 on Cascade Climbers in the rock climbing forum. Fun stuff.

Sol rapping Air Roof (5.11b, an Icicle classic)

I have also spent a few days up at Trundle Dome recently. The salt and pepper granite at this crag is gorgeous and super fun to climb on. Plus, it recieves ample evening shade, a big plus during these hot days of summer.
I also stood on top of Mt. Stuart a few days ago, climbing the Ice Cliff Glacier with Max Hasson. It was nice to spend a mellow day in the alpine. No run outs or scary moments, just enjoying the mountain evironment. The route was really fun (I am a sucker for slogs) and I was able to eye up a future project in the area...but that will have wait for my return from Alaska. This upcoming week includes a nice dose of alpine madness, so stay tuned for more bad pictures and cheesy writing!

Max enjoying fine snow conditions on the approach to the Ice Cliff

The Hassasinator assasinating the upper reaches of the Ice Cliff Glacier

Myself having fun on ice

The radical environment of the Ice Cliff Glacier

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hidden Wall Adventure

A few days ago Dan Cappallini and I took a trip to the seldom visited Hidden Wall in the Leavenworth area. The Hidden Wall lies beyond the Bridge Creek Wall, and like most of the climbing in the heights of the Icicle, the experiance was dirty, scary, and really, really fun. A few years ago Dan and I completed a new line on the Bridge Creek Wall and while descending, spotted an interesting dihedral system on the Hidden Wall. We vowed to return as soon as possible, but it was only a few days ago that we actually got down to business.

The high crags of the Icicle are soooo untapped. The potential for long, hard free climbs is limitless. I truly believe that the Upper Icicle is one of the best adventure climbing areas in the states, right up there with the obscure desert towers of the South West, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and other similar zones. Like always, we carried no bolts or pins and still managed to find an unlikely 5.10, five pitch climb, that shot up the center of the formation.

The photo above shows the Bridge Creek Wall. It blows my mind that this 1500 foot wall sees as little traffic as it does. It is one of my favorite walls in the state. So sick. To reach the wall one must face a grueling (fun) hike through blowdowns, loose sand, and talus. To reach the Hidden Wall, you go even further, but it's worth it...

The Hidden Wall
Our route took a line starting directly above the big tree on the right, and followed two distinct half moon dihedrals across the face. Pitch one was painfully dirty, but we persevered and scored on pitch two. This awesome stretch of climbing traversed left and up and contained pumpy climbing through several unlikely features. Awesome!

A few shots of pitch 2

Pitch 3 was also super classy. It is an incredible feeling to be able to climb protectable, traditional rock that has never been traveled before. No tat, no bolts. Just you, the rock, and mountains behind...another day in paradise.

Dan on pitch 3

One of the best reasons for visiting these high crags is for the panaoramic veiws of the major peaks of the Stuart Range.

A shot from the top:

Our long day finished with a few thousand feet of vertical sand surfing and a thorough tick check (we each pulled about ten off our bodies). If you desire dirt, suffering, run outs, and the sheer beauty of untravelled terrain, the upper reaches of the Icicle are for you. Get out there!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Games Climbers Play

A few years back my freind Renan Ozturk ran around Joshua Tree one winter day and ticked off 20 classic 5.11 routes. The link up was great training for his trip to the Karakoram that year and lately, in preparation for my Burkett Needle expedition (June 9-July 9), I have been playing a similar game here in Leavenworth. A week ago, Sol Werkin and I began a project to climb the 15 most classic (in my humble opinion) 5.11 routes in the area. We have tried the project twice now and what a project it is! If you know the Leavenworth area, then you can imagine the amount of hiking and elevation loss and gain that goes into a day like this. It is freaking huge. The other day we made it through 9 climbs before realizing we would never finish before dark. By my calculations the goal, when accomplished, will take around 13 hrs and will require absolutely no hick ups. No falling, no stopping, no hesitating. Bottom line. The other day we managed to climb:

Tubing At Der Ritterhoff 5.11a

Rock And Rattle 5.11c

M.F. Direct 5.11b

No Such Thing As A Free Lunge 5.11d R

Daz Muzak 5.11d
Bovine Persperation 5.11b

Air Roof 5.11b
Gilligan 5.11d
Domestic Principles 5.11a

The ones we did not get to are:
Mastadon Roof 5.11c
Lazy Boy 5.11c
The Guillotine 5.11d
Pumpline 5.11a
M.J.B Arete 5.11b
Giant Steps 5.11b
I have almost all of these climbs on lock down, but the goal is still one of the most challenging I have ever tried to tackle. All in all, this link up is grade 6 for sure! We plan on making a third attempt here soon, so stay tuned...hopefully the third time around is a charm. Thanks for taking a look!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heart Of A Stone Monkey

In this modern climbing age, the term "monkey" is thrown about rather flipantly, without a second thought of the meaning or depth behind the label. On a surface level it makes plenty of sense. A monkey likes to climb, I like to climb rocks, therefore I am a Stone Monkey. As easy as 123, or is it?

Before I delve deeper into this subject I must say; this essay has nothing to do with you being or not being a Stone Monkey. The beauty of climbing and living is there are no distinct defenitions. We are what we are, through and through, following our given paths until the very end.

To me, a Stone Monkey exists in a space where climbing is an automatic extenstion of anamalistic routine. Movement is not forced by thought, but rather flows out of a connection with the stone. When I pull onto a wall, a mountain, or a boulder, I am in that very rare spot, where I don't need to think about my actions, wrong or right, responsible or irresponsible; I just know I am where I should be, connecting the right dots, and easily following my instinct. This assuredness comes from years on the rocks, building muscle memory and shaping my mind to see normality in the vertical.

Being a Stone Monkey also inlcudes an undying love for the mediums I move and live in. Watching the sun set crouched on an airy ledge, sleeping best under stars and moon, taking in the beauty of my position mid climb and connecting that power with my present situation. The list goes on, but for me, the intamacy I feel with my surroundings helps me become a part of my environment. I am that piece of lichen undisturbed on a granite slab, that lizard crawling into a crack, that gnarly pine duking it out with a gusty wind. When I climb I try to feel the organic rythm of things, always hoping to be on key with the other members of nature's choir.

Living as a Stone Monkey is as humbling as it is inspiring. The raw experiance of being a productive member of nature always reminds me of how typically fragile life is. A dead sparrow on a belay ledge or the bones of a deer scattered amongst the boulders quickly remind me that for us all it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Not to say the world doesn't spin a fair cycle. Life is mostly what I know. Wild flowers in the spring, cougar tracks in a fresh, woodsy snow, or my friends faces around the fire. Again, like the reminders of the end, an inspiration to live to the fullest, each moment, each day.

So there you have it! A clearly inadequate take on an alternative lifestyle. My heart and body are always being molded, leaving evolving shapes of me in different phases of my journey on earth. But the core values always remain the same. Although parts of me yet discovered are sure to blossom and the tree of my life bound to grow, those values are the foundation of my being. So no matter what I become, I will never escape the true Jens, a Stone Monkey for life.