Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!

It was a fitting way to end the year, one last sprint up a small mountain, a few meters of easy mixed and alot of steepish snow gully climbing. An amazing view of Kranj, Bled and Ljubljana as the sun set and then a small storm to descend in. A great way to end the year! Photos are a self portrait from the summit of Storzic and the last sunset of 2007 and me pooping stars on the easy yet insecure mixed ground. Happy New Year, hope to swing leads with you next year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rep (The Tail) M5 5.7 150m

It was cold again in the parking lot this morning - and if you know me well, you know it was not the crack of dawn. The car thermometer read -5 degrees C. and the route we wanted to climb was 800m higher. Luckily we had a trail broken for us and did the approach in an hour and a half. We sat in the sun and drank some tea, my nerves started getting to me because I had actually been bouted off the crux pitch before, I didn't have the right gear and it was the first multi pitch mixed climb I had been on in Slovenia, so I thought I should give it another go. Armed with a Specter, because I had dropped two pins in a row trying to get something in the shallow crack that was my only gear option (turns out people ice climb the pitch usually- btw, at first sight my partner says to me, "what is this?", and then later, "how do I take this out?" I respond with "Bang it with your..", but am interupted with "oh, cool, I can just take it out with my fingers, it is loose." Well, I guess I just needed the proverbial rope drag to give me the confidence. Anyway, good to get it done, feel good, had a super day climbing in the sun! The pictures show, well obviously the car thermometer, me posing, and my partner, Irena Mrak, leading the second pitch.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tech Tip: Leg Warmers

Leg warmers may have been invented by the aerobics crowd but they sure do work. I use them all the time, alpine climbing in Patagonia, rock climbing with Marko the other day in the freezing temps or just to add warmth when ice climbing. The principle behind leg warmers is simple, send warm blood down to your feet and your feet will be warm.
I made my latest pair from an old pair of expedition weight long underware. I cut them just below the knee, then sewed in an elastic cuff. they are not tight but the elastic seems to not slide on my usual pair of base layer long undies. They provide insulation when post holing but have the advantage of not making my legs overheat. The best use I have found so far is for cold rock climbing days, they can be pulled down over your heel to keep your feet warm while climbing.

Tech Tip: Alpine Picks

I am currently loving the New F07 Black Diamond Cobra. I was sent a pair of them last spring when Jay Smith, Jack Tackle and I tried to make the first ascent of the south face of Logan. I loved them instantly, Now I have used them on on K2, a couple of peaks in Nepal and still lovin' em here in Slovenia. I have been experimenting with tooth angles and configurations, and what I have come up with is, for alpine mixed climbing the T rated pick rocks. I filed the first tooth back at a steeper angle then comes off the shelf, then notched the top of the pick - this gives a significant amount of stability on pick torques in the slippery limestone. Bet you it would work better in granite too.

Blast from the Past: Queen Maud Land, Antarctica 2000-2001

We were a team assembled by Alain Hubert, it included Andres Georges, Daniel Mercier, Ralf Dujmovits, Rene Robert and Myself. We spent alot of time in the greatest big wall, big adventure playground anywhere! The top photo, taken new years day 2001 shows us on top of Holtana after climbing a new route. The bottom photo shows Alain, and why big guys don't do well in portaledges!

Blast from the Past: K2 2005 South Face

One of the greatest adventures I have had was with Bill Pierson in 2005 on the south face of K2. We had planned to climb up a mixed buttress to a 10 pitch chimney that joined the magic line at 7700m. After acclimatizing on the Abruzzi we finally got the least unfavorable forecast of the season and launched. Walking through the ice fall at the foot of the face was scary but uneventful, simul-climbing the lower slopes was fun with stuff falling all around up. The best fun were the open bivies. Super. Wouldn't have it any other way. The photos show me and Billy out in the open for a comfy night, Billy leading on the south face, me with the Chimney leading to the magic line. The forecast shut down on us, and we watched the wind whip the mountain from 7700m up. Rapping the face was really great, especially the second to last rap, off a prototype baby specter sunk to its second tooth! Billy went first, I stood there, clipping and un-clipping from the anchor. Hope to return someday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ass handed to me! Veliki Vhr

Well today was humbling, went climbing even though it was -6 when we parked the car, then the bad signs started - my partner had a feeling they left their crampons at home 5 minutes into the 2 hour approach, and they were right - we drove back to get them(only 20 minutes each way), we post-holed up to our knees for 1 hour our shins the other hour, then the route looked dry, with lots of very dry snow in parts, making the rock climbing slow and cold on my hands and then we had the wrong rack - needed alot of smaller pieces - can't wait for fed ex to arrive with my rack from Boulder!
So needless to say I got my ass handed to me. It was a great learning experience and only good can come from that. I learned that I need to work on flexibility and well, frankly, have a lot to learn about the mixed climbing here in Slovenia; the limestone is slick at times, loose at other times and totally bomber sometimes. Today was great because we tried, and nothing bad will come from that. Still lovin' it though!
The pictures show the type of climbing we did on the route today - that follows a line in the center of the wall.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Time to Party! Happy Holidays!

It is time to party, so I thought you should see "the evil schnapps" and the Christmas decorations. We have been eating meat and potatoes cooked in the wood fire to fill our bellies. That makes for good eats. Happy Holidays.

M7 Again

I got the M7 at the Drytool Cave today! Goes out the right side of the roof. Easiest route at the Cave but my first day on it. The Top is scary as $#&! to lead as it is all choss. Glad it is over and that I am climbing M7 again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Delights

I love being in Slovenia! Yesterday we drove just over an hour to reach Trieste in Italy (btw, the first day you no longer had to show ID at the border). We went to cool sport climbing area called Napoleonica, it has short routes just above the water, with great views of Trieste and Venice from the top of the cliff! The area is known for its technical routes, and after warming up for a long time I hoped on a slabby 7a, and almost onsighted it. I missed the sequence and couldn't down climb, but was happy to see that the days in the bouldering gym and drytool cave are starting to pay off. Still my skin was the weakest link, cant wait to someday be tough. The best part of the day was not freezing to death, it was great to be in the sun, sweating and having fun walking around the polished limestone base barefoot!

Variety is the spice of life, and so today I opted to suffer again - back out into the mountains. Irena and I went to do a 500m snow gully with a bit of mixed scrambling. It was a way to see if the recent heavy snow dump has settled at all. Sure enough, there is more snow than we wanted and waded a bit. Still it was super fun adn the mixed scambling was great. We were caught at the top of the route by a speed demon, who it turned out had climbed Cho Oyu in winter, skied GII and had climbed a fair amount with Henery Barber in Boulder in the late 70s. Cool.

Tomorrow we plan another exploratory trip into the mountains to see what conditions are doing. Routes are looking dry still, although snow covered, so I called my friend Tom in Boulder and asked him to Fed Ex my whole rack out here as it looks like I need extra gear to get the courage to try some of these amazing routes! If you read this Tom, thanks so much, and make sure you come to Pumori!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Without a doubt Osp should be on every sport climbers hit list. Just for sheer beauty, the little village with a camping are make it worth visiting. The walls are big, short, wide, slabby, overhanging, vertical and at times very sharp! The rock and bolting were first rate.

My trip there yesterday was interesting, it started in the blowing snow in Trizic, then a slippery ride to the Kamnik highway turnoff, where I stood outside of a coffee shop waiting for a short while for my partner, Marko Prezelj. We drove to the west, Osp, is a kilometer from the Italian border, on very windy and slippery roads, Marko and I joked that two alpinists can only sport climb in these conditions. But Marko knew something, when we got within a few kilometers from Osp the skies cleared, and it was just another beautiful day by the coast. OK, to be honest, it was clear but still windy and the temp was 1 degree C.

3 minutes of approach past Silo Karo's house and we were at the base. It was cold, and windy, oh yeah, we were th only people there the whole day, until two Italians showed up at a reasonably warmer 2pm.

We climbed a few pitches and then the sharp rock rock took its toll on me. I have not had such soft and whimpy skin in so long. I could hold on when it was a gentle hold, but as soon I a touched the little spikes I cringed. We did actually worry a bit about getting finger injuries from the cold. But Marko at the end of the day managed to send a 7a or a+.

Hanging with Marko, one of the greatest alpine climbers of all time, was super, we had fun talking about people we knew in common, his and my travels, US and Slovenian politics and possibly going ice climbing in Cogna soon.

All in all a fun day. Time to train.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It is all Training

It has snowed alot in the Julian Alps the past 10 days, this morning we tried to go out alpine climbing and found about 8 cm of fresh fluffy powder sitting in the parking lot, flakes were still coming down and we bagged it. At least we tried. What now, I am getting fat from all of the good food and even better drinks! "Lets go to the climbing gym." Trizic has a cool bouldering wall, first you have to go find the key.

The wall is run by the local climbing association and is where all the strong people train - well, that is what I was told and so asked if it was still ok if I went too - the sport climbers from Trizic are winning alot of comps. So we drove to a bar, yup a bar - no, not for liquid courage - but to pick up the key, then to the municipal building, then down a couple of hallways and sure enough, a door marked "sport climbing", and oh man, better get strong quick.

It was great, flailing again. But now I know how to get in and it is not used before 4:00pm by anybody, so I have my own training facility. All I have to do is make it out of the bar. I love Slovenia.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Drytooling again!

It has been so long since I went out to a pure drytool cave, it is so much fun! I fully flailed on a steep M8, when was the last time I climbed at this angle? The cave is a 10 minute drive from Trižič and is a 10 minute walk up to from the car. So nice to have great training so close. There were routes from M7-M11, all about 20m long and steep as %#&$! I was pumped by the 3rd bolt. But the one thing I relearned from the outing was just getting out and doing it regarless of how well you do, is worth it. My arms and back are screaming today from a totally great session, and my face muscles hurt from laughing so much. On my third lap I started to get the moves on the M8 dialed and started to link it. A couple of more days out there and I will perhaps send it. Who knows or cares, it is fun either way! Obviously I am grateful to Scarpa for all the great shoes!

Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms

What do lucky charms do for us? Are we really superstitious? My latest, given to me by a dear friend, hangs from my alpine harness now; is it supposed to protect me, remind me of them? – could this be disastrous if I am epicing and all of a sudden I reach for a Cam and grab the bear in a winter hat and scarf instead? Friends of mine have a small stuffed Piglet, a mountain gorilla, school mascots and too many more to mention. What is your lucky charm?

Who needs a rope for Stotžič?

Who needs a rope for Storzic?

The other day I was taken out to the local training ground for all alpinists that live in Trizic, the town I am based in - by Martin who runs the Trizic Alpine Club. Every Alpinist in Slovenia is a member of a local mountain club, which dishes out money for the rescue associations, expeditions and it turns out, travel money to foreign ice festivals.

Storzic gains 500m on the north wall. It was my first real day of climbing on limestone, and as I did up the zipper on my Phantom 6000, I asked where the rope was. Rope, who needs a rope, in the summer the route is only given about 5.6 and now it is covered in 1cm of ice, why would we need a rope was the answer?

Partly I had wanted to come to Slovenia to learn why they were the best alpinists in the world, well, I guess that I can go home now. It turns out that most people are comfortable soloing iced up 5.6 for 500m. Luckily there were a couple of snow gullies to rest on, or rather, break trail in while I “enjoyed” the rest of the climbing. Limestone is a bit crap, when I asked how to know what to trust, I was told, “Don’t trust anything.” Cool. A lot of the climbing was easy but about 100m of it was “solid” rime covered 5.6. It was actually fun, minus the two times Martin told me where not to fall because it had not ended well for those who had fallen before me.

I made it up and down, a super fun first day of climbing in Slovenia. The approach was only 40 minutes and we post holed our way down the descent gully and then skied a bunt of scree to get back to the car.

Dancing with the stars Slovenia-style and NBC K2 Interviews

Dancing with the stars Slovenia-style and NBC K2 Interviews

The other night I was casually sitting back drinking a couple of great glasses of Slovenian Pinot Noir and watching Dancing with the Stars, Slovenina-style. It was as exciting as watching it in the USA; well, up until they asked the guest celebrity judges for their opinion, and holy cow, there he was, Tomas Humar! The Man is a celebrity!! It was amazing to see him commenting on how a couple were tangoing, I had heard he was famous, but I didn’t realize this famous. This past summer I was given an MP3 player to listen to that contained songs from a famous and very popular Slovenian band called Siddharta – it was kinda edgy in a grunge way, not M. Manson sort of way, and a voice started to speak over the music. I asked what he was saying and was told “It’s Humar, talking about re-entering life on the ridge of Dhaulagiri, once he left the face.” Amazing. He is a superstar! Where is Lynn Hill’s song with Tool, where is Tackle’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars! Americans must suck at marketing ourselves or perhaps the rest of America is just oblivious to the number of potential judges that run around the mountains. For sure there are enough reality shows that need judges. Click onto then go to videos and click on B mashina for the song.

To watch Humar on tv
then go to SPET DOMA in the menu and choose the last show that was on the 9th of dec.

You can only throw stones…well on Sunday, Dec 16th 2007 sometime in the afternoon depending where you live in the USA, NBC will show a documentary that I was interviewed for. It is not dancing with the stars, nor a song, nor is it about me, just being interviewed because I helped a team out a little bit on K2 this past summer. But that is my fifteen seconds of fame. I am glad it will pass soon. I might have a Mohawk if they show any footage from the mountain, when I was helping Don through the Icefall, don’t be shocked. It was a sweet look, but one that faded.

I wonder what is on TV tonight.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Long Time

It has been a while since I last posted. No Doubt. Since the last post I have climbed in Patagonia, Alaska, Nepal, Pakistan, and now I am in Slovenia. I have decided to start again.

Check in soon to see photos from Kwangde North Face, and my adventures in Slovenia - my latest being a fun easy route on Storžič.