• jerid humping

    A Truly Stolen Chimney, Hilarity on Ancient Art

    Sep 1 • Locations • 189 Views

    True climbing encourages bravery and induces suffering. It’s at the heart of the endeavor, and all seasoned climbers recognize this. For most of us it creates a foundation of who we are, builds our character and gives us life philosophies. For most of time climbing was never mainstream. Then, starting with sport climbing, gyms, and bouldering, climbing reached more and more people. It reached me as a hopeless kid growing up in the flatlands.

    This piece is an excerpt from the upcoming book American Climber by Luke Mehall (banner photo is from an old school disposable camera)

    Fortunately I landed in Gunnison, Colorado where a hierarchy in the climbing culture was basically non-existent. That’s a good thing. All climbers being created equal. Sure, we’re not equal in terms of ability, but no one was going to think or act like they were better than you simply because they climbed higher and harder. There was a spiritual flare to it, and that is what appealed the most to me. The greater climbing scene could be weird. Climbing, no matter how mainstream it gets will always have the weirdos; good or bad.

    Visit any crowded climbing area and you’re bound to find some weird. The current state of climbing is a sport trying to find its identity. All hope is not lost though, once you become a competent climber you realize there’s an abundance of rock in which to paint your art. At least in the American West, and especially where we were at in these days. Climbing at its core, a dirtbag sport, rejects the mainstream. But, climbing is mainstream nowadays, and we’re still sorting it all out.

    Ancient Art, located in the heart of the Utah desert, in the Fisher Towers, is one of the most photographed summits in the desert, an iconic corkscrew that winds up into the blue sky, with an unbalanced summit room enough for only one person. It is disgustingly crowded on a busy weekend, and a testament that often as a whole the climbing community lacks vision and skill; why in the world we will climb behind ten other people says something about the modern human race.

    Ancient Art is no Mount Everest though; people aren’t dying regularly because of the problems. It’s simply an inconvenience. And, when we were in our younger twenties we saw no problem getting behind several parties and starting up.

    It was Two Tent, Tim and I, leisurely climbing the Stolen Chimney, behind several other parties. We were far from wise, no young climber is ever wise, but we were willing to climb slowly, and we really wanted to stand on that corkscrew summit.

    The corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

    The corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

    So we waited behind the line, and eventually after an hour, it was our turn to start up. Two Tent led the first part, and he was like a Zen machine, you knew he would get the job done with ease and style. I belayed and simply fed out rope, as he motored up the pitch. As he finished, and built the belay, a character emerged out of nowhere. “Hey, you guys mind if I pass you?” he asked.

    Slightly stoned, already laughing about a previous incident that had just happened when one of the parties rappelled down and dropped a rope on a climber coming up. The woman started freaking out yelling, “I’m down here. I’m down here,” as if certain death and doom were going to follow the rappel ropes.

     

    So we were laughing and stoned, and okay with everything, until this guy shows up. First of all, it was just him. He had no partner and he wanted to rope solo the route. Rope soloing is an art of the one percent in climbing; probably less than one percent. I’ve met a few, and their primes seemed to be in their mid to late twenties; and they were going through a breakup or some identity crisis. They needed to prove who they were to themselves. The Fisher Towers, The Black Canyon, and Yosemite have witnessed some impressive and partially insane rope solos; pushing the limits with a partner is one thing; pushing those same limits with no one but yourself to be your best friend is another.

    I doubt this guy was one of the proud ones; my guess is that he was so annoying he had a hard time finding steady partners. So that fateful day, his motivation to climb, with no partner, put him behind us, and ten other people.

    “I don’t know,” I said to the guy, while looking at Tim. “I think we’ll probably move faster than you. You have to climb each pitch twice, man.”

    He was unfazed and motivated to shoot to the top of the tower in the fastest possible time. Two Tent built an anchor and we climbed up to the ledge. Then we sent Tim up. Tim was just in his first year of leading, and moved slowly as one often does when they are learning. He was in a chimney and kept climbing further and further into it for security. Solo Guy came up and forcefully built his anchor, using the same bolts we were clipped to. He quickly rappelled down and cleaned all of his gear; moving efficiently, but still annoyingly.

    Once he was back up at our ledge Tim was still deep in the chimney moving slowly. Fear, and lack of experience can make time stand still for the leader, gripped, thinking injury may be one move away. So Solo Guy was back at our anchor and Two Tent and I were just laughing at his presence, when he announces he can’t stand it anymore he’s climbing.

    Tired of his company, we just let him go, and he starts up the chimney, with Tim forty feet above him. He quickly climbs to Tim, and they talk. Solo Guy is spread eagle on the outside of the chimney, with Tim deeper in the chimney than he is. “You see, your first problem is your pants,” Solo Guy says. “They’re too baggy, you need to get something that fits better.”

    We’re laughing quietly to ourselves at the belay. Tim is frightened and we don’t want to upset his nerves, and we also don’t want to Solo Guy to know we’re making fun of him. Two Tent and I are in a world of safety, beauty and camaraderie, Tim is scared, and perhaps learning something about pants and climbing, and Solo Guy is fired up to pass as many parties as possible to stand alone on the corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

    Yes, another old school photo, the classic corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

    Yes, another old school photo, the classic corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

    Solo Guy passes Tim, awkwardly climbing the chimney spread eagled, and he’s still giving advice, and now addressing Tim like he’s his best friend and mentor. “Hey Tim, I don’t mind if you clip my gear, but if you clip this one you might die.”

    Two Tent and I stare at each other lost in the comedy.

    “This one is okay though, you can clip it,” Solo Guys said.

    Solo Guy finally leaves our sight and Tim slowly climbed up. Then Solo Guy comes down to clean his gear giving more advice to Tim, and then he goes back up. Tim and him arrive at the next anchor near the same time. He brings us up.

    We arrived at the ledge only to look up to Solo Guy passing more parties, surely annoying other parties as much as he annoyed us. At the ledge we have more company, a guy and a girl, the girl being the one who was frantically yelling earlier.

    Here’s another phenomenon in the modern climbing world: guy learns to climb, guy wants to impress girl, guy takes girl climbing, guy is unsafe and gets the girl in over her head, girl has meltdown, fighting ensues and echoes throughout the climbing area for all to hear. This was one of those situations.

    I could imagine a scenario where rules are reversed, but the old saying “the women are smarter” speaks for itself. Most of us are still cavemen.

    We introduce ourselves, and so do they. They rappel back to the ground, and we have a second of solitude. The main feature unfolds before us on the last pitch, a small walkway, a diving board’s width, leading up to a thirty foot corkscrew looking feature, winding around to the summit. A thousand feet of air beneath you; the classic red rock old west desert landscape, but this is the new west.

    Climbing on the feature it seems like something that’s going to fall down one day, destined to be a part of the boulders and bushes and trees below. Probably would scare the shit out of some rabbit frantically running about on the desert floor for food, safety, or sex. The phrase “fucking like rabbits” is said all the time, but in all my days in the wild, I’ve yet to see it. Maybe I’m just not looking at the right time. Maybe the rabbits are more discrete than we give them credit for.

    Back up at a thousand feet we finally had the tower to ourselves. Two Tent led, weaving the rope up the corkscrew formation like a spider, carefully, with ease. He stood on top and when he stood on top he looked comfortable. When I went up on toprope, I stood on top and immediately climbed back down. The top was slanted, and I felt like any sudden movement meant either I was going to fall off, or the tower was going to fall down. And, what if it did? Would I survive? Would I be “that guy who was on Ancient Art when it fell down”?  It didn’t, it still stands to this day, although just last year, The Cobra, an often climbed shorter tower in the Fisher’s did just that, it fell to the ground.

    No word on rabbit fatalities.

    Two Tent, Tim and I, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh people to stand on that little guy that day rappelled back to the ground, only to find eight more people, lined up like Disneyworld.

    A couple seasons later Tim and I returned with Jerid to repeat the climb. It was slightly less crowded; no rope soloists in sight either. At the diving board feature, on the way to the summit we made fun of Jerid while he humped across it, beached whale style, trying to take a photo of him. He jokingly swiped for the camera, a disposable one (still pre-digital camera era here), and it fell out of Tim’s hands. We watched the thing fall a thousand feet, like a slow motion movie, slowly, slowly falling back to the desert floor.

    Bummed that we would be losing some shots from a great trip we tried in vein to find the camera as we hiked back down the trail. Tim became convinced that someone else had picked up the camera, and ran down a family who were hiking. Gone for twenty minutes, we just sat there, blazing in the desert sun, ready for Tim to come back so we could go drink beer and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then, we see him, on the horizon, hands in air, “I found the camera!”

    It was a glorious moment, and when I took the camera in to process the photos, (it was still relatively intact even though it fell a thousand feet) what do you know, the very last photo, the family had taken a photo of their kid, sunglasses tilted, hands in the air, posing like a hip-hopper; the photo before that, Jerid, humping along the diving board, that delicate little summit behind him.

    The little gangsta that found the camera that took a thousand foot fall and the film survived. All of the photos in this post are from that camera.

    The little hip hopper that found the camera that took a thousand foot fall and the film survived. All of the photos in this post are from that camera.

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • bugs from above beal

    Review: Beal Stinger Unicore Golden Dry 9.4 mm rope

    Aug 31 • Gear • 39 Views

    How do you choose a single rope for multi-pitch and alpine climbing? Considerations include weight, dry treatment, durability, and the feel of the rope. Good looking is a bonus too. I’ve enjoyed climbing with the 9.4 mm Golden Dry Beal Stinger rope on alpine rock this summer. This rope had a soft feel right out of the box and has maintained good workability after many days of use. The sheath has proved to be durable; despite abrasion in chimneys and a few pinches and sticks on rappel pulls, there are only a few minor sheath frays. The incredibly soft feel makes clipping a breeze.

    Retail:$249.95 for 60m, $289.95 for 70m

    Reviewed by Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor (banner photo is from the Wind Rivers, Wyoming)

    Medium thickness: The optimum rope thickness is partly a matter of personal preference, and I find 9.4 mm to hit the sweet spot for a single rope. It’s thick enough to inspire confidence in edge-cutting resistance (38% sheath percentage), and thin enough to be reasonable to carry on a long approach. The Stinger weighs 59 grams per meter, similar to medium-weight single ropes: 9.4 mm Petzl Fuse and 9.4 mm Sterling Ion, for example. These are all a good bit lighter than burly ropes like the 9.9 mm Maxim Glider (66 g/m) and much heavier than the new triple-rated ropes on the market, which weigh as little as 48 to 52 g/m. A mid-thickness single rope is a sensible compromise between weight and durability.

    Length and pattern: The Stinger is available in 60 meters or 70 meters. I usually choose a 70 meter rope for the option of linking pitches and completing 35 meter rappels with one rope, which are becoming increasingly common. I prefer bi-weave ropes for the ease of finding the middle; Beal only makes the Stinger in single colors with a pre-marked middle. The middle mark has faded some over time, as they all do. Much discussion is available on the web concerning DIY rope marking and I won’t get into it here, but it can be done.

    Unicore binds sheath to core fibers: Beal has recently introduced a new technology they call “Unicore” which binds the sheath and core fibers together, preventing sheath separation if the sheath gets partially cut. I don’t cut ropes or jump over sharp edges as part of my testing, but this video (from Beal) shows the impressive performance of a Unicore rope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwtbKe4Vfag.

    Dry treatment: Beal makes the Stinger rope available in two options: Dry Cover (sheath treatment) or Golden Dry UIAA-rated treatment, which treats both the sheath and core fibers. [For a description of the UIAA ‘water repellent’ certification, see the review for Beal Opera on the Zine site.]

    Since I often encounter wet conditions in the mountains I got the Golden Dry treatment, and I’ve been pleased. While many dry treatments wear off quickly from use on rock, the Stinger has remained water repellent after a couple months of rough use. I recently dragged it through plenty of soggy snow while rappelling off the South Howser Tower in the Bugaboos and the rope remained supple and continued to coil well and avoid major snarls on the rappels. In camp, we barely had to dry it. Having been extremely frustrated by wet ropes snagging and tying perplexing knots, I appreciate a rope that stays dry and supple in alpine conditions.

    Stretchy, low impact: The Stinger is quite dynamic for a mid-thickness single rope, in fact it behaves more like a skinny triple-rated rope with 8.2 kN impact force and 37% dynamic elongation (compared to 8.6 kN and 34% for similar ropes). Stretch is great, but there are two sides to that coin: soft catches mean longer falls. In most trad climbing I welcome a stretchy rope as it increases the chances of marginal gear holding, but it’s a trade-off that’s worth considering. If you want a rope with shorter falls, go with something thicker. I really enjoy this rope for sport climbing as all the falls are soft and gentle.

    Bottom line: This is a great all-around medium-thickness climbing rope for intermediate and advanced climbers, ideal for alpine climbing with the Golden Dry coating and well suited for sport climbing as well. The soft ‘hand’ offers little resistance while pulling up rope to clip and helps save energy while leading. There are lighter ropes optimized for fast backcountry pushes and heavier ropes for workhorse abuse (wall climbing, gym training, excessive sport whipping), and this rope excels for everything in between. If you only own one rope, a 70 meter 9.4 mm Stinger isn’t a bad way to go.

    Plus, the hot pink weave is really sexy.

    The Beal Stinger

    Drew Thayer blogs at Carrots and Peanut Butter. He is a Senior Contributor to The Climbing Zine.

    In the vertical world, quality gear is as important as good weather or the right partner.  At the Climbing Zine, we review gear that we put to the test in our personal climbing pursuits, over months of use. If we like it we’ll tell you, and if we don’t we’ll tell you. That’s our policy…If you have gear for us to consider for a review please contact us at luke@climbingzine.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • zine_cover7 (4)

    Volume 7 Get It Now on Print and Kindle

    Aug 29 • Dirtbagging • 556 Views

    The long awaited next issue of The Climbing Zine is now available on Kindle and in print. Volume 7: dirtbags, crag dogs, hyenas, and free solos features a line up of some of the best voices in rock climbing culture.

    Here’s a look at our authors this time: Gaelen Engler, Chris Kalman, Brendan Leonard, Becca Skinner, Jason Haas, Courtney Ott, D Scott Borden, Alexa Flower, Drew Thayer, Al Smith III, and Luke Mehall.

    Becca Skinner's grandfather, Bob Skinner climbing in the Cathedrals in Yosemite in the 1950s. Becca writes about life in a climbing family, in her essay, "Growing Up Skinner". Photo: Skinner Family Collection

    Becca Skinner’s grandfather, Bob Skinner climbing in the Cathedrals in Yosemite in the 1950s. Becca writes about life in a climbing family, in her essay, “Growing Up Skinner”. Photo: Skinner Family Collection

    The Climbing Zine, Volume 7, full color with art print version, $9.99.

    The Climbing Zine, Volume 7 on Kindle for $2.99.

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well!  We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • tent

    Review: Peregrine Radama Tent

    Aug 28 • Gear • 180 Views

    This tent is a great value for a 2-person, 3-season backpacking tent with some innovative features. The tent follows the popular half-dome design: square footprint, two poles, mesh and fabric interior, rainfly with two vestibules, and includes light and strong DAC aluminum poles. The green rainfly is day-glow bright and is visible from a long way off, so you won’t have trouble finding camp.

    Retail: $165

    Reviewed by: Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor

    Space: At 90.5 inches by 59 inches, this tent has ample space for two people plus room for some gear inside, which is a nice during foul weather. Having a vestibule on each side is convenient for storage and easy ingress/exit from the tent. Vestibule head space is limited since the tent tapers from its highest point and does not have a lateral ‘spreader pole’.

    Versatility: If pesky insects and cold winds aren’t a concern, you can leave the mesh and fabric interior at home and just carry the rainfly and ground tarp. This drops the weight by 38% and provides a great streamlined shelter. I’ve slept through thunderstorms with the tent set up like this, and the rain fly, if staked out properly, provides plenty of coverage to keep you dry inside.

    Weight: The Radama 2 is standard weight for a two person, 3 season tent. At 5 lb 7 oz it’s similar to comparable tents on the market: for example, REI Half Dome (5 lb 6 oz) or Marmot Limelight 2 (5 lb 0 oz). Lighter tents like the MSR Hubba Hubba NX go down to the 3 pound range, but cost up to $400 (over twice the cost of the Radama 2). This tent is a fantastic value in terms of medium weight and low price. Leave the interior at home and the weight drops to a light 3 lbs 6 oz. The optional ground tarp weighs 14 oz and is made of standard coated nylon.

    Connectors: Peregrine tents use a unique strategy for securing the poles, tent, fly, and ground tarp together. While most tents I’m familiar with use a spike-and-grommet strategy, DAC has invented molded plastic connectors, ‘Jake’s Foot Clips’, that accept the poles in a ball-and-socket joint and also snap together with other components. The corners on the tent interior, for example, have a socket for the ball-end of the tent pole and also have two bars, one for the hook from the ground tarp and one for the hook from the fly.

    The advantage of this system is the tent components snap together easily and don’t rely on stacking multiple grommets on one end of a tent pole, which in some tents doesn’t work very well. The hooks are swift to snap and detach. However, I am concerned about the long-term durability of these plastic pieces. The integrity of the tent completely relies on these snaps and ball joints, which would be very difficult to replicate or repair (compared to a grommet), so a broken piece could render the tent somewhat useless.

    Bottom line: This tent is an amazing value, offering the performance of leading brands for about 2/3 the price. It comes standard with reflective guylines, a mesh gear loft, and high-quality stakes, so it’s ready to go for an adventure right out of the box. The option to set it up without the mesh interior makes it really versatile; it can fit in your gear quiver as a comfy tent to keep the bugs away or a simple storm-proof shelter for light-and-fast missions. Don’t feel like you have to buy a brand-name tent, the Radama 2 is a great choice with no sacrifice in quality materials and construction.

    The Radama 2

    Drew Thayer blogs at Carrots and Peanut Butter. He is a Senior Contributor to The Climbing Zine.

    In the vertical world, quality gear is as important as good weather or the right partner.  At the Climbing Zine, we review gear that we put to the test in our personal climbing pursuits, over months of use. If we like it we’ll tell you, and if we don’t we’ll tell you. That’s our policy…If you have gear for us to consider for a review please contact us at luke@climbingzine.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • drew golden 1

    A Tribute To The Golden Hour by Drew Thayer

    Aug 8 • Locations • 244 Views

    Sometimes, the balm of the day is Happy Hour, when we can leave the stress and bustle of work and bike over to a friendly watering hole to enjoy a cold tasty brew. This is the time to relax and banter with friends, and enjoy a slower pace.

    by Drew Thayer, Senior Correspondent 

    I enjoy the libations of Happy Hour sometimes, but the real balm to my soul is the Golden Hour, that magic time just before dusk when the sun does something ridiculous and paints the whole world in rich velvet rays. It’s as if the sun realizes that it’s about to leave and throws a final burst of its purest light over the world, a parting gift.

    castle valley moab golden hour

    The Golden Hour is a special time. It’s the time of my best efforts, but not my hardest…it’s a brief relaxation of the day when gravity and fatigue lose their potency. These are the times when I float down the trail on renewed legs and climb with renewed vigor, buoyed upward by a new lightness before the close of the day. In winter, when I see that golden hue out the office window before I leave, I see the chocolate walls of Indian Creek in my mind’s eye and recall days upon days of floating up splitters in the light of the fading day, scaling the improbable cliffs with no more effort than breathing.

    As JD and I hiked over Jackass Pass into the Cirque of the Towers this weekend I couldn’t help continuing to look behind at the splendid silhouette of Lost Temple Spire jutting into the horizon behind us, bathed in the light of sunset. “Man, wouldn’t it be sweet to be up there right now”, I kept saying. He said something about the annoyances of rappelling in the dark and I had to agree, but maybe it’s worth the cost…

    We enjoyed a fun mellow day scrambling to summits in the Cirque and enjoying spacious views of the range, then returned to camp for a meal in the early evening. We’d been talking about the Lost Temple Spire too much to let it lie in the unknown future anymore. Satisfied with some Raman noodles and spicy peanut sauce, we broke camp, packed our bags and hiked south over the pass with the Spire floating before us like a sentinel in the sunset. Golden Hour. “Man, I’d like to be up there at this time tomorrow.”

    Usually, I hit the Golden Hour at the end of day-long climbs, massive efforts that drain me to the core, and the rich thick sunlight comes as a blessing at the end of the day when I need a final boost of energy. The spire in our view is only six pitches tall, totally feasible to climb and descend in half a day. To be up there near sunset, we’d have to start late…

    drew golden 2

    We were a little haggard from poor rest before the trip so we luxuriated in ten hours of beauty sleep at Big Sandy Lake and enjoyed a casual morning stretching and drinking coffee in the meadow. Buzzing mosquitos were annoying but hey, you forget all the annoyances easily. We set off for our destination with a super-alpine start of 9:30 AM and enjoyed the lovely walk to Black Joe lake (wrong way…oops), crossed the shoulder of Haystack to correct our error, and took an exhilarating dip in the cold clear waters of Deep Lake underneath the majestic prow of Lost Temple Spire.

    After a long scramble up from the lake we enjoyed great climbing on the Wind River granite as we inched our way up the Spire via Separation Anxiety. A sparse description in the guidebook kept things exciting, as a 5.6 pitch held a surprise no-fall-zone 5.9 mantle and a “5.0 traverse” involved inching out on sloping blocks over the sheer north face that drops off a thousand feet to the glacier below. The proud skyline of the tower was accordingly strenuous, with a burly “5.9” fist crack followed by the route’s signature pitch, a 65 meter hand crack. As in a 65 meter pitch with 63 meters of hand jams. With four red and three gold camalots on my harness, I gazed up at the immaculate splitter that cut the white granite above us beyond view, and felt my hands tingle with anticipation. The pitch was pure joy, perfect jams with a gulf of air beneath, so little gear it wasn’t even worth thinking about it. At the rope’s end I was huffing and puffing and couldn’t help the huge grin on my face.

    We climbed back onto the sunlit west face as the day grew old and the light grew thick with the molten sun. We forgot the fatigue of the day and the bustling wind and worked our way through the final problems to the top of the Spire in a golden world of sky and stone. On the summit, the Wind River Range extended before us in unending waves of peaks and valleys, ridges and cliffs and dizzying vertical walls, each one holding the promise of unwritten trials and discoveries. At these times, in the dying sunlight, the future spreads as far as the mellowing horizon, in all directions, tantalizingly close.

    We’d earned our time in the Golden Hour, and had to pay up too. Rapping the south ridge on-sight in the dark involved some uncertain rope-stretching rappels, some manky anchors, and an entertaining half-hour while I crouched in an alcove tied to a small block while JD finagled an anchor somewhere above me. The mountain’s geometry forced us down narrow ledges away from our packs and we had to descend a long way down and scramble the whole way back up, our feet swollen in climbing shoes. It’s easy to get dejected on a long slog back to camp, but the beauty of the place kept our spirits high. We sated our raging thirst with the cold waters of Deep Lake and ambled down the slabs of the valley, glittering in moonlight. We only got four hours sleep before waking to the buzz of mosquitos and a threatening sky but jammed some coffee and oats down the hatch and made the trek back to the car, tired and sore but happy with the memory of the Golden Hour still fresh on our minds and worn into the creases of our hands.

    Drew Thayer lives in Laramie, Wyoming. His blog is called Carrots and Peanut Butter

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • laura panama

    Is The Dirtbag Dead?

    Jul 24 • Locations • 765 Views

    “I was crazy and I was wild and I have seen the tiger smile.”

    Drive On by Johnny Cash

    This zine has come a long way from our humble roots of a stapled together black and white publication with a skate, punk rock feel. The latest result is Volume 7: dirtbags, crag dogs, hyenas, free solos, our crown jewel. It’s no coincidence that as a publishing company (Benighted Publications) we spend the majority of our time and energy on our printed version. We love print.

    by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Zine (note this piece is the introduction from Volume 7, now available in print and on Kindle.) Banner photo of Laura Chase by Braden Gunem

    Our journey has been a serendipitous one. When we started it seemed like everyone was shying away from print. Start a website everyone said. Digital is the future. But we didn’t care about what everyone else was doing; we just wanted to start something unique that highlighted climbing and our culture, a venue for wild stories full of adventure and rich prose. So we did. We printed a hundred or so of our first couple issues, and handed them out, occasionally selling them for a buck or two.

    Then, like everything, we had to evolve, the state of the zine depended on it. Several of our readers suggested we switch to an all color format, so we did. Our printing costs shot through the roof. We improvised and got sponsors on board. The climbing industry rallied to our support (evident by the many stellar sponsors who are on board with this issue). Five years after we started this zine on a whim, we’ve got something unique that people really appreciate and keep on their bookshelves, not merely here today, gone tomorrow.

    I think starting something tangible, something you could feel, proved to work to our advantage. Everything comes back around. Trends come and go; timeless, genuine work lives longer. We want to sustain and bring back the romance of reading, like how a record player slows time and makes you pay attention to each note, each lyric, each song.

    In a culture where everything’s moving so fast, so catered to the short attention span, we are taking an artisan, small craft, simple is beautiful approach. We also know we’re not the only business out there with this philosophy. It’s a movement.

    For us, our role in this movement is doing our part to show that the dirtbag lifestyle is still possible, and, not only that, it’s still alive and thriving. Which is why I want to offer up some thoughts on last year’s “Dirtbagging is Dead” article, published in Climbing magazine by Cedar Wright.

    Wright’s title was very clever, because it was engaging. He has his “rant” on the death of dirtbagging, but then offers up a challenge to the next generation: to continue the dirtbag lifestyle as the generations before us did. I don’t want to challenge anything Mr. Wright wrote about, because he was right on: climbing is growing and changing, and many young climbers don’t know a thing about dirtbagging. I did want to follow up with some thoughts of my own though.

    Climbing is more than climbing; it has been and always will be. When you truly fall in love with climbing, it’s impossible to sustain the love without a community. And, to dirtbag, to live simply, out of a bag, in the dirt, your existence has to be sustained with a community.

    Yes, it has gotten more and more difficult to “dirtbag it” in certain places, particularly Yosemite and Joshua Tree, but it is simply false that “dirtbagging is dead”. Quite the opposite, the dirtbag is alive, and it is more important than ever that climbers live as dirtbags.

    Yet as I write that, it seems so silly to compose those words, like I’m an old man talking about my glory days and how the kids should live now. People are going to figure it out on their own, the importance of living a simple life, and the rewards of such an existence. Everything comes back around, and the dirtbag existence happens naturally to people. If The Climbing Zine ever becomes a eulogy to the glory days, burn it to start your campfire. In climbing, the golden age is always at hand if you know where to look.

    That said, there are legitimate reasons for defense of the ongoing existence of the dirtbag. Living like a dirtbag is the centerpiece for the American climbing culture. Originally, the inspiration came from the Beatniks, their prose, written in the fifties and early sixties fueled the Yosemite climbing revolution, which still inspires us as a culture. Their rambling, free spirited way of living also inspired the Original Dirtbags. I think as climbers we admire Yvon Chouinard for his first ascents on El Capitan, famously fueled by meager rations for days, more than the fact that he founded two wildly successful companies. That says a lot about our culture, and what success means to us.

    The climbing generation that I am a part of is the same era that Mr. Wright is a part of. We started in the 1990s, and have been witness to an exponential growth in the sport. Tighter camping restrictions have been implemented in many areas, and technology has taken away some of the romance of dirtbagging. Climbing gyms have created a culture of their own as well. I personally started climbing in a gym in the Midwest. Luckily, shortly thereafter I moved to Gunnison, Colorado, and met a bunch of dirtbag climbers, forever changing the course of my life.

    It is our view at The Climbing Zine that this generation has to pass the torch to the next generation. As I approach my late thirties I know my hardcore dirtbag days are done. The climbers from my generation are getting married, and having kids. So, it is the younger generation, bound to be stronger and more impressive than us, who are coming up in the game.

    And I have complete faith that this generation will continue to dirtbag, and find the magic that this lifestyle provides. You will seek out the places to climb where there is no cell phone signal, and you can camp for free for weeks on end. You will climb new routes where our generation did not think to look. You will see the open road as the Beatniks did, a blank canvas leading you to the mountains of your dreams where you’ll experience more fear, inspiration, and beauty than you’ll know what to do with. You will come back and inspire us with the stories you’ll tell.

    So, this issue is dedicated to all the aspiring young dirtbags of the world. The dream is still possible, and it is up to the younger generation to sustain the culture.

    The dirtbag is dead? Hell no. The dirtbag is alive! Long live the dirtbag!

    Read more from The Climbing Zine Volume 7 in print and on Kindle

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Rewilding - Season 1, Episode 1 - Pilot from Rewilding, The Film on Vimeo.

    Rewilding – After Prison, Adventures in The Wild

    Jul 18 • Locations • 626 Views

    editor’s note: Last month we got word of a very inspiring project called Rewilding. The project is centered around Anthony DeJesus, a formerly incarcerated young man from the Bronx, who has never left New York City. This summer he’s joining filmmakers and climbers Jesse Spiegel and Vitek Linhart, on an adventure across the West, which starts this Wednesday, July 22nd. This is their pilot episode, in what is truly a unique and inspiring endeavor.

    Anthony high five

    Here’s more from the words of the filmmakers:

    Through their experiences traveling the country in a van, rock climbing, farming, backpacking, practicing yoga, and connecting with people from different walks of life, the three will explore leadership, health, adventure, happiness, and sustainability.
    This web series and documentary are the stepping stone toward the creation of Rewilding’s Alternative Adventure Retreat (RAAR) for formerly incarcerated young adults: A place for wilderness immersion, self-discovery, adventure, and sustainability education. RAAR has already partnered with seven transition programs in the Bronx and Harlem that assists young men as they transition back into their communities after incarceration.
    RAAR will offer these men an opportunity to leave the city and head west where they will participate in a variety of hands-on activities that are aimed at developing leadership skills and promoting growth and healing.
    ”Rewilding is about returning to one’s natural state of existence and being true to one’s self!” Spiegel said. “We encourage everyone to step outside of the box of how we have been told to be and what we have been told is possible. In every living thing there is the desire and potential to grow when the conditions are right. Our goal is to help create the right space and conditions for individuals to reflect upon what inspires them, and to provide tools that help move them in that direction.”
    For media inquiries about Rewilding please contact Suzanne Spiegel at suzanne@rewildingthefilm.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • The Great American Dirtbags by Luke Mehall

    Jul 18 • Books, Climbing Culture, Dirtbagging • 4032 Views

    It’s about that time to officially announce that my second book, The Great American Dirtbags is printed and a real thing instead of this vision inside my mind.

    TGAD.inhand

    by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Climbing Zine

    This book, which I am proud of, is a collection of eighteen stories and a couple poems, and the pieces range from my depressed teenage years to my current happy mid-thirty-something “born again dirtbag” days.

    As a self published author you learn to hate your words, and love them again. You spend so much time editing and revising them they take on a life of their own. The only real thing that truly keeps me going are my friends, my community, the climbing and greater outdoors community. It’s a crazy realization to have, but all I ever need in life is under the sun and stars. Sure, there are times to have a roof over your head, to shower, to write, to make love, to eat, to rest, but in the end I would not want to live a life without adventures in the outdoors.

    So many people have supported this project, and I promise to pay it back in karma points, but maybe that’s not how this whole thing works. Some people just send their time and energy and love without asking for anything return, and that’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned through this process. And now there is this book of dirtbag stories, for you, because they happened to me, but the stories themselves are nothing without someone reading them, then they take on a life of their own, they are yours.

    The Great American Dirtbags was published by Benighted Publications, and retails at $13.99. 

    It is now also available on Kindle for $6.99

    For media review copies please contact me directly at luke@climbingzine.com. word!

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

    3 Comments on The Great American Dirtbags by Luke Mehall

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