Opening Tag

A place where I can openly indulge my megomania

Monday, June 3, 2013


Let's see here....Ive been bouldering. Yeah, I've said it. Bouldering. Im ashamed to admit it. I feel lazy about my climbing to say the least. No training, which is highly unusual for me, as my spring regiment has been a staple of my climbing for the last decade. It's surprisingly liberating. Whenever the mood strikes me, I jump in my car, drive 5 minutes, get a short session in, and go home after I've wrecked my skin. Easy!

Naturally I can never just go with the flow. Eventually objectives always sneak in. This year it's the infamous 'Goblin', a Logan Carr problem put up about 10 years ago. It ascends a striking prow in the center of the Depot near Farewell Bend park. It begins with some easy compression moves and progresses to a hateful 2-finger tooth at double head height. From there you must leap to a horrendous rail system from which you carefully top out. So far as we know it has only seen a handful of ascents, no more than 3 or 4.

Jesse cleaning the hateful crimp.
It's odd having a boulder project,  a project where I have to work the moves. So far I have only made contact with the crux holds. A much different scenario than Im used to. Normally when working a sport route I can do all the moves first go and the problem becomes a strategy/fitness issue. Now that Im a few sessions it still feels miles away. Im at the point now where I feel it's necessary to take drastic measures (rope + Gri Gri) to get this thing figured out. I can only waste so much skin on this before I start to regress from lack of variety.

It's not all projects and self loathing. I recently had the pleasure of touring around Leavenworth once more. I had been there once prior in 2008 during a hot weekend in May. It was a productive trip, but I left unimpressed with the rock. It seemed like everything I climbed was lowball, flaky, or baby poo soft. This time I was fortunate enough to sample some amazing lines: The Shield, Nosebleed, Cotton Pony, Yos Highball, Thunderdome to name a few. I was successful on everything I tried except the Cotton Pony from the sit. I landed the dyno several times from the mid, but couldnt string it together from the start. Frustrating!

I ended up punching a hole in my finger on the first day. I guess I havent really figured out this pacing thing. Either way, this turned out to be the best strategy as it would dump rain for the next several days, prematurely ending our trip.

Jesse climbing Ginsu V7 at the Depot

Bouldering grades have been something I've never really understood. So many factors come into play when doing near-limit movement that Im reluctant to really give my true opinion. Hence my lack of participation on the bouldering section. For instance, I was able to do Thunderdome V10 relatively fast, then after a rest got completely stymied on a 7 of the same style just left of it. Pimpsqueek V9 is another example. From what I gather, that problem's grade has consensus. Tho I flashed it in 90 degree heat with direct sunlight on it, something I dont normally do.  I thought of it no more than 6. The same could be said for my current project. The Goblin has been called v9 and done in a day by a couple people, but for me it's at least 11. Examples like this are very easy to come by.

I usually consider boulder grades as a measure of strength and route grades as a combination of fitness & strength. It serves as a decent justification for the variance you experience from crag to crag. I can see how someone who spends an entire summer developing an area can end up featherbagging their sport lines. You lose a lot in the process. Bouldering on the other hand is a much less involved process. Assuming people grade boulders honestly, one would think convergence would be much more prevalent. This is far from true.

Here are my rules for detecting grades which stray from the mean:

  • The problem sees many ascents in a short period of time.
  • The problem is '1st of the grade' for many people.
  • The problem is in reality a route protected by a crashpad/there are no stopper moves.
  • Many child ascents.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll figure this out. I guess you'll know when you see my 8a bouldering card.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fox In Socks

Just now getting back into the swing of things. The snow season is winding down and Im gradually ratcheting up my climbing game. Despite all of this chair riding, I've managed to maintain my fitness. Now it's just a matter of selecting a new project.

To keep it interesting, I've put in a new line in the Dihedrals. Ive been eyeing the arete just right of 'Go Dog Go' for years now. Figured it was time to finally do something about it. So last weekend I geared up and slammed some bolts in it. Unfortunately, my drill died while putting in the first bolt. Knowing that it was impossible to bolt/clean this line any other time but at night, I installed the rest by pounding my drill bit in with a hammer. I have a new found respect for this practice.

Psyched to hand drill!
I was pretty happy with how the route turned out. Huge moves on good holds, accompanied by great exposure. Even more so to have contributed something in the main area. I suspect if nothing else, this route will be a great way to access 'Go Dog Go'.

Check it out. Fox In Socks.

Fyi, the name is a reference to an old Dr Seuss book. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Climbing Blogs Distilled

Im working on a project at work using tag clouds. Thought it might be interesting to see what was most important to the authors of some of the heavily followed climbing blogs. 

Andrew Bisherat

Daniel Woods

Joe Kinder

Wills Young



Splitter Choss

B3 Bouldering

Climbing Narc

Peter Beal

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Metolius Gear Review

This past weekend I got my dirty mits on some new items slated for this Spring and took them out Oregon's beloved dirt pile Smith Rock. 

Gatekeeper Belay Biner

I cant tell you how many times I've seen and experienced a cross loaded belay biner. A feat easily achieved whenever slack is introduced into the system. Especially prevalent when route setting or bolting new lines. Metolius's answer to this is the Gatekeeper, an easy to handle, lightweight belay/repel biner. Simple in design, but very well thought out.

Features I-Beam construction, which makes low on weight (2.46 oz), while retaining a great deal of strength (22KN from basket to basket). The spine has been widened towards the larger basket to prevent a GriGri from migrating onto the spine, which all but stops the dreaded spine-gate cross-load situation. The biner itself has a relatively narrow profile that allows it to sit nicely on a gear loop with a belay device and gloves attached.

MSRP - $17.95

Smith Rock. Home of the top rope.

Bravo Wire Gate Draw

At Smith Rock, there's more than a few routes that you can link together if you have the right set up. To me there's not much more enjoyable than setting up a monster 50 meter pitch and lower back to the ground. Unfortunately, the weight is always cumbersome. The new Bravo biner/draw really helps cut down on the weigh without sacrificing crucial ergonomics and safety.

Im quite used to clipping the full sized Inferno biner, so I was skeptical about using a smaller biner, fearing I would get my fingers caught. Thanks to a particularly smart design in the nose, this was not the case. They have enlarged the hood of the biner where the wire completes the oval, allowing the wire to seamlessly close. This combined with a low profile notch has made this biner exceptionally easy to clip. Like the Gatekeeper, this biner features I-Bean construction adding to its strength(24KN) and weight saving (2.5 oz/5in draw).

Yes, I brought my iPhone with me.

MSRP - $18.95

Speedster Rope Bag

Smith is filthy. So rope management and a good rope bag is crucial to the longevity of your equipment. This bag is what you'd expect in a bag. Tarp big enough for your rope. Carrying system. Method to tie off ends of rope. Etc. Where it stands out is its utility.

Often times I'll hike down to the crag, warm up, leave my main pack with the group, and head up to a project. Rather than hike everything with me, I can use this bag as a secondary essentials bag. 

I was able to pack my 100 meter 9.2, shoes, chalk bag, Tupac water bottle, belay device, and gloves easily in this.

Other item combination that fit in this are:

  • 5 pots & pans.
  • 1 70 meter 9.2 + everything I would need for a day of sport climbing.
  • 1 fat tabby cat.
  • 2 18 packs.
  • 12 pairs of La Sportiva Miuras.

MSRP - $46.95

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Long Time, No Post

The fate of all blogs is the eventual death by neglect. I kept pushing this off for months as I slowly faded from the climbing community. This was for several reasons. First, I had reached the point where I could no longer drag myself to the crag without feeling obligated to maintain my fitness. Long gone was that sense of wonder the accompanied exploring this region. I was mentally worn out from spending so many days projecting. Secondly, I was hurt. Id say in the last two years, I spent a full 9 months out due to injury. Always of the unusual sort. First was a tare in the muscle belly for the flexor of my middle finger. Next I had a piece of bone stuck in my PIP joint of my left ring. Rather than mope about it I found other pursuits.

By random chance I found myself on a on mountain bike. Once was all it took. Next thing I knew I was thousands in the hole and had face wounds to boot.  The fall climbing season came and went and I found myself standing sideways, sliding down a mountain. Once again I felt that excitement I used to feel about climbing.  It was during this season that I realized I no longer had to suffer through off-season climbing. Waking up early to get 3 pitches in before it broke 100. No more huddling in front of a propane heater. I had let this suffering burn out my spark for climbing. Between mountain biking, snowboarding, and climbing, I could be fair weather in all aspects of my life. Too cold to climb, a day in the hills is in order. 

The approach is still the same as it was for climbing. Obsession. Lost in visualization. Methodical. I rode somewhere around 130-150 miles a week in the foothills and this season at Bachelor will surely surpass 1,000,000 vertical feet. 

But it's not all wrecks and sends. Ive also been splitting my time between learning new programming languages. Currently the choice is Django/Python, which dominates my stack at work. 

With that nerdiness aside, Im writing this to inform those of you who still have me in your RSS readers that IM BACK. Yes, thanks to bout with the norovirus Ive shed what little fat I've gained from riding chairlifts and drinking beer. Back at the cliff and at the gym I feel like I havent missed a beat. It makes me question all of the time Ive spent suffering in the gym. Was it worth it? Or is just leftovers from those days? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Trinity Alps

There's so much to say about our experiences in this place that Im having a hard time doing a write up justice.

In the meantime, enjoy this short video of Jesse Firestone doing the 2nd ascent of The Phoenix.

Monday, October 29, 2012

You're Never Too Good To Suck

When I was first introduced to this world I was given some advice. I was told that climbers begin their journey with two bags, one is full of luck, the other is empty, but as you go forward you empty the bag of luck and fill the empty one with experience. This wouldn’t mean much too me until I left the safe confines of single pitch sport climbing.

My first couple years of climbing was crazy to say the least. I had reached into the bag so many times I was beginning to fear I was cursed with luck. Close calls were numerous, but the result was always the same, I returned to the ground safely. This would go on for years and eventually I lost my noobish ways, but kept the cavalier attitude, which was only fed by my growing prowess on the stone.  Similar to how a teenager considers himself invincible.  The problem was that it was a one sided development. Cant do the section? More power. Off route? Plow forward. This worked time and time again, but I knew one day it would get me into trouble.

That day started out like most adventure days, lost & looking for the trailhead.  This time we were in the North Cascades, outside of North Bend, WA, on Mt Garfield. Our goal was a “sport” route called Infinite Bliss, a 2,200’ 5.10c.  We figured this was the perfect route to get our bodies ready for the up coming season.  When we finally found the cairn marking the start of the climber’s trail, my way more fit climbing partner Ryan Carrasco charged ahead. In an effort to keep up, I skirted the obvious trail, opting to climb mossy face after mossy face until I became rim rocked; I could neither safely climb up or down. I was only 800 feet above the car on the approach and I had already put myself in danger. I had given myself one option continue up or fall and break my neck. Luckily I was able to regain the trail and meet Ryan at the base of route. Little did I know, this off route diversion would serve as an omen for the rest of the day.

We stood at the base, staring up at 2,200 feet of granite slab climbing.  At 10:45 I was not surprised to see two parties already high on the face.  Undeterred by this we decided the best course of action was to simul-climb until we ran out of draws. I racked up 40 quickdraws and stepped onto the stone.

I knew almost immediately that I was unprepared for this. This feeling was only made worse by my realization that this route was not really a sport route. It was an endless slab with the occasional bolt. Each pitch was roughly 150’ adorning 2 or 3 bolts. So at any point if either of us were to slip, we were looking at least a 60’ slab tumble.

The first 1,500 feet was rather uneventful. Every party let us pass, route finding was a cinch, and the stone was immaculate. I was certain we’d be up and down in matter of hours. Then we reached the point where most parties turn around, a half mile wide by 600’ tall section of 5.0 with no obvious route. The only discernible feature of this section was two small shrubs at 200’ and 400’. With a great sigh, I pushed on into the maw.

Sub 5th class climbing is always an interesting endeavor. Never once have I climbed a well-protected sub 5.6 route. I can only assume there’s a certain amount of machismo that goes into developing these routes. That if it isnt going to be hard, it’s going to be scary. Well this section didn’t disappoint. The climbing it’s self was simple. The difficulty came in navigating the endless sea of removable handholds knowing that a slip meant a 230’ tumble. I reached an uninspiring bush that would act as our belay for the remainder of the Death Slab and belayed Ryan up.

Casual Slabbin.
I was happy to hand off the next section. More of the same. No gear. No bolts. Choss galore. What we didn’t know at the time was that I had traversed a hundred or so feet from the actual route, which we would only come to realize when Ryan reached the end of the rope. Rather than downclimb 230’, Ryan gave me a meat belay, backed up by a small pile of rubble he had slung. My concerns with this approach was not the difficulty of the route, it was the prospect of a rouge piece of choss greeting my dome at 9.8m/sec. I cursed the topo artist as I laced up my boots and thought “how can this be fun?”.

Our feet hurt so bad by this point, we could barely do summit flexing shots.
The remainder of the Death Slab section was uneventful. We got back on route and tackled the final 600’. The climbing was harder, but well protected. The difficulty at that point was not the climbing, it was jamming my blistered feet into climbing shoes. Neither of us had taken that into account that and we paid for it dearly. By the time we had reached the summit block, we could no longer stand barefoot. Which only made the prospect of rappelling 22 pitches that less appealing. We had 2 hours to rap 2,200 vertical feet before nightfall. Not impossible I told myself.

Rappelling the death slab area. All of these blocks were posed to land on the parties below us.
Rappelling down slabs is not as easy as one might think. You have to take into account the endless rope tangles, route finding, and stopping your line from dislodging death blocks & killing the parties below. Our one consolation as we descended into darkness was a sunset that only an active fire season can produce.

Rappelling madness. 
Among the items we had neglected to bring (jackets, enough water, slings, etc), Ryan and I had each forgotten one crucial item. Ryan’s was a headlamp. Mine was a helmet. This would greatly impede our progress. Our method was for me to rap first and upon reaching the belay look up to help Ryan navigate the sea of choss, putting me directly in the rock fall zone. Each time I rappelled I had to swing a hundred feet in either direction in order to find the next belay station. Each time I was certain I would miss it. Luckily that only happened twice. In the process I left about $50 in gear and put a core shot in my rope.

Seven hours after we summited, we reached the ground. 22 rappels, 15 of which where in total darkness.  Miraculously, we avoided dislodging any loose blocks onto the unsuspecting parties below.

Every time I go out and pretend Im not a sport climber, I pay for it.  Im not sure if it’s willful ignorance, bad luck, or some combination there of. What I do know is that im nearing the bottom of both of those theoretical bags I was given when I started climbing.

Sorry for all of the pictures of me. Ryan took all the photos that day. Nearing the summit. Here you can see Ryan's gross foot.