• Dave Marinowski in Indian Creek. Photo: Drew Ludwig

    Hope In The Desert (an excerpt from American Climber by Luke Mehall)

    Aug 17 • Locations • 220 Views

    Then, when all seemed like peace had been restored to my existence, 9/11 happened. I was out on a morning jog, something I’d added to my climbing training, and I was listening to the radio on my Walkman. The song on the radio was interrupted: the United States had been attacked, and the first World Trade Center had fallen. I went into the grocery store and ran into a friend. “We’re going to war,” he said.

    by Luke Mehall, an excerpt from his memoir American Climber

    Banner photo of Dave Marcinowski by Drew Ludwig

    I gathered with all the other college kids in the student union. Everyone was shocked, and there was a major sense of confusion. Sadness was all about. I had lunch with a friend at The Firebrand; we talked about how we were going to war. I thought society was going to shut down, and, after lunch, I went to the grocery store and absurdly spent the remaining twenty dollars I had on ramen noodles. At work, we watched the TV coverage, and spoke to one another with the kind of care humans do after this sort of tragedy. That night, I drank beer with friends, and I fell asleep on someone’s floor.

    AmericanClimber_Cover (1)

    September 11th stunned America, and, in our remote mountain refuge of Gunnison, we felt it too. Of course, society did not shut down, and my feeling that it was going to shut down showed me how little I truly knew about the world and how it functioned. Our leader at the time, George W. Bush, didn’t seem to understand the workings of the world either, showing this by his inarticulate language and flexing of the military muscle in regions that had nothing to do with 9/11, while he lied and staked his case for war and set a course that I was saddened and confused by. With all of that going on, I was still determined not to sink into depression and to follow this new path. I’d already set sail on a new journey, and nothing short of death would stop it.

    This world of machinery and war, it’s all too much, isn’t it? If there is a God who created us and is watching over us, God surely did not give us this life to fight so much, right? If I were still in Illinois, I know I would have sunk deeper into a darkness, given the coming war, but I had seen the light already, and the light came from the sun, and, if you were in the right place (nature) at the right time (sunrise or sunset), well, there was a certain beauty to it that made you believe. Believe in what? Hope.

    And where do you find hope? Bob Dylan asked us that a long time ago in his epic poem “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” His answer, his hope, in the poetic way only Dylan can communicate, was in Woody Guthrie, as he lay dying in the Brooklyn State Hospital, and it was in the Grand Canyon at sundown. My hope was in the sunrise at Hartmans, as it awakened me every morning. It was in Yosemite, a place I truly regarded as a Promised Land that could save the lost soul. Hope was also in the red rock desert of the Colorado Plateau. Moab. Hope was in the desert.

    We called it the desert when, in reality, Gunnison and my home at Hartmans was its own desert, a sagebrush-foothills sort of desert, but when you’re talking time and place, the time being the early 2000s and the place being the Moab desert, THE is where the emphasis is, because, when compared to any other desert for climbing, in the United States there is only truly one that stands supreme.

    I’d had my first trip to the desert in 1999 over Thanksgiving. Caleb had invited me there and had given me some basic directions. I spent my first night cold, sleeping in my car at a quiet, frozen campground along the river. In the morning, I drove more into the canyon, and found a small dirt pullout where I would meet Caleb and his friends. When I hiked up to the wall, I noticed a climber seventy feet up a perfect crack, untethered from a rope. Not wanting to break his concentration, I quietly hiked past him. My naïve mind figured that was something normal, free soloing desert cracks.

    When I found Caleb and the crew, I did the thing that I always do—I tied into the rope and tried a climb. Crack climbing is a masochistic art, and I fumbled and fought to learn how to insert my fingers, my hands, and my feet into the crack. Figuring this out was the hardest thing in the world, and, when I looked around at the others who had practiced and mastered this art, I was 100 percent sure I would never reach that level of technique and athleticism.

    Mehall, the chuffer in 1999.

    Mehall, the chuffer in 1999.

    I arrived at the wall with my very basic climbing set up. I wore sweatpants and had a harness, a belay device, climbing shoes, and a fifty-meter rope. The innocence and lack of knowledge about climbing was oozing from my pores, mostly the sweatpants, and the gawking coming from my face. I knew what to do though—offer someone a belay, and later I would have a toprope set up.

    One of the guys in the crew, who was British, wanted a belay; climbing is perhaps the best way to make a genuine connection with someone from another country. So I belayed. The climb was Fingers In A Light Socket, a finger crack, which finished at some desperate face moves, sixty feet up, and it’s one of the only climbs at the buttress you could actually use a fifty-meter rope on. He got to the crux, the difficult face moves, and hung on a cam. Eventually he figured out the moves, and, after a couple more hangs, he set up a toprope.

    It was my turn to climb, but, just before I was about to tie in, the free solo guy emerged out of nowhere. He seemed high on adrenaline and wanted another fix.

    He eyed our climb, and, after confirming we didn’t mind that he tried it, he climbed up, untethered to anything in this life, with only the tips of his fingers in the crack and the tips of rubber from his climbing shoes inserted into the wall.

    Indian Creek is a crazy place, I thought to myself as I watched the madman climb alongside my blue rope, which was barely wavering from side to side in the light breeze.

    He was fine for the first forty feet, and then he started to look shaky. Oh my fucking God, am I going to watch a guy fall to his death during my first hour at Indian Creek? I wondered.

    My new British friend looked at me, not wanting to say anything but gravely concerned. Then, like it’s nothing, he gave up his free solo attempt, grabbed on to my rope, and then climbed down it, back to our perch on the ground. He mumbled something about how hard it was, and then disappeared into the day. Fifteen years later, as I write this, I’ve yet to see another person free solo in Indian Creek.

    That next day there were some climbers, obviously Creek veterans, who were establishing a new route. I didn’t even really notice what was going on until they reached the top of the crack, and there were no anchors. So, they hauled up a power drill and swiftly drilled two holes, and then hammered expansion bolts into the wall. Most of the climbs I’d done had the same anchors, but this was the first time I’d witnessed a new route go up. Whoever said there’s nothing new under the sun was not a climber. For the rest of my life, I know there will always be new routes; you just have to know where to look. In the late 1990s there was more low-hanging fruit out in the Colorado Plateau than there is now, but the fruit is still ripe for the picking.

    Flash forward a couple years, and we were just getting the taste for a desert fix.

    I’d figured out the techniques, the basics, and spent plenty of time paying my dues, jamming every type and size of crack I could find. The adrenaline and endorphins that desert climbing creates is addicting, so much that we found ourselves returning as often as possible, striking while the iron was hot, and the nights were cool.

    Tim was the ropegun, the energy I attached my climbing hopes and dreams to. He was a force to be reckoned with, and he was always the secret weapon we used as we climbed harder and harder.

    Around this time, Tim became Two Tent Timmy. When I moved into a tent in Gunnison, Tim moved into a tent in Crested Butte, the epic mountain town 30 miles north of Gunny, where he was working at the time. Some friends went to visit him at his new home, a piece of real estate on National Forest land that he staked out by setting his tent up. What he did, that everyone thought was so memorable, was he put a tent inside another tent. The larger outer tent was where he kept his cooking supplies and other gear, and the inside tent was where he slept. Once the words Two Tent Timmy were uttered, it was a nickname for life.

    This was perfect because there was another Tim. We worked together, and he was on the mountain rescue team, and he was interested in climbing. We struck a deal: I would join the rescue team and learn from him and his life-saving compadres, and we would teach him some things about climbing.

    So, one day, Two Tent, Tim (the new Tim) and I were at Supercrack Buttress in Indian Creek, talking about what we were going to do the next day. A climber was eavesdropping, listening in to the process. He said, wisely, “You guys should check out the North Six Shooter.”

    North Six Shooter. Photo: Keith Brett

    North Six Shooter. Photo: Keith Brett

    We inquired. Obviously we knew the formation—it was the most striking tower in all of Indian Creek: a slim crimson pistol that stood all alone, shot four hundred feet in the air and hovered there like a beacon.

    We probably muttered some questions, asking about the crux and the gear, but what I remember most is his convincing statement: “It doesn’t get any better than the North Six Shooter.”

    That night at camp, we looked through the guidebook, scribbled out a topo map of the pitches, and tried to hide our nervousness. Two Tent wasn’t nervous though. He lived for this stuff. It was like, at any time, he was ready to face his fears and try his hardest on the rock. I was usually in the opposite realm, unready to face my fear and hopeful that something would come up, so we could give up and get stoned, go back to the comfort zone. Secretly though, deep inside, I wanted to face my fear with confidence like Two Tent did. I wanted to live freely.

    We drove Tim’s truck toward the mighty North Six Shooter. A few clouds hovered off in the distance, a storm brewing for sure. One of us mentioned cancelling the mission for cragging at the Supercrack Buttress again, but Two Tent’s persistence and vision carried us through the drive to park the truck, and we began hiking up. We totally blew the approach, and it took us two hours instead of one, often hiking on ball bearings, the point on a talus cone where the surface is unsteady, unpredictable, and you feel like you’re going to tumble down to certain injury if you slip.

    Sweaty, already tired, confused, and disoriented, I looked up at the tower. There are only two main routes, and they are so obvious that a grandma with cataracts could point them out. Our intended line, the Lightning Bolt Cracks, shot up, and zigged and zagged back and forth, so divine, and perfectly shaped for the human fingers, hands, and feet, it was crazy to think they’d only first been climbed just after we were born. Since the gear, the camming devices necessary to protect cracks like these, was only invented in 1978, nearly every climb in the desert was done first in our lifetimes. (The ones that were done previous to this were mostly easy or dangerous endeavors, completed by pioneers that led the way to a golden age that is currently riding high.)

    The other line, Liquid Sky, was a brutal overhanging squeeze chimney, even more obvious than the Lightning Bolt Cracks. I’d read about the climb in a magazine, and it had such a daunting reputation that a thousand people look at it, for every one that tries it. The major rumor was that you could become stuck in it, and, if you fell, you would fall so deeply into it, you could die, and they would never be able to retrieve your body. Rumors are rumors though. But I’ve yet to climb that thing, so I can’t confirm or deny.

    Two Tent racked up with our meager selection of gear, though growing by the day. That’s something about climbing—your gear, especially if you’re a dirtbag, is the most expensive of your possessions. When you embark on a climb, you pool up all your gear, and it becomes one communal thing. Two Tent went up with everything and navigated his way through the first crack system, eventually pulling through an overhanging off-width squeeze. Then he slowed down.

    Two Tent was rarely slowed down, and Tim and I noted the rope coming to a halt. We looked at each other and whispered what we were thinking. I was belaying and kept my focus on being ready for Two Tent to fall, and Tim had his eyes on the weather; the clouds were building and building, and he mentioned that a thunderstorm was inevitable.

    It was, and, just as Tim suggested it, thunder started.

    Exposure is a big concept in climbing. Sometimes exposure means two thousand feet of air beneath your climbing shoes; at this particular moment, we were exposed to lightning. The instinct is to get the hell out of there, but I was tethered to Two Tent, holding the rope for his belay, and he was facing a thin, blank section, trying to wiggle in gear, but nothing fit. We yelled back and forth, and he decided to down climb to a chockstone, wedged into the wide crack he’d just passed. The chockstone had some webbing around it, and he clipped a biner to it and lowered down to our perch. Thunder clapped all around, and, finally, it was time to book it.

    We scurried off the hill, slipping and sliding, but making it swiftly back to the truck, while thunder and lightning erupted all around us. Just when we got back to the truck, it really let loose. The heavens were purple, with a hundred flashes of lightning going off at a time, thunder erupting so often, you couldn’t tell what lightning was connected with what thunder. As we drove away, we couldn’t have been happier to be in the truck, and the majestic desert was soon in the rear view mirror as we headed back to Gunnison.

    This piece is an excerpt from Mehall’s memoir, American Climber, available in print and on Kindle. 

    Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 10.01.54 PM

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

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    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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • _DSC1233

    The Eleventh Hour of Half Dome by Jason Haas

    Aug 15 • Climbing Culture • 267 Views

    Climbing with a pack on is the worst. It’s heavy, it’s awkward, and you don’t even use half its contents in the end anyway. I was stuck, by all accounts of the word. I couldn’t go up; I couldn’t go down; I couldn’t go sideways. I was stuck. And it was all because of this damn pack. I was going to die an embarrassing death. YOSAR was going to have to come do a body recovery of my emaciated, died-of-dehydration, stuck body. The only reason I wasn’t afraid of never living it down was because I’d be dead. Embarrassingly dead. Oh, why did that great-looking dihedral have to be wet? It looks way more fun to climb than this stupid squeeze chimney. But let’s be honest, it wasn’t the chimney that was the problem, it was the exit hole at the end of it. I had tried to worm through and almost made it. But not quite.

    by Jason Haas (note: this piece is an excerpt from Volume 8)

    Banner photo by Tristan Greszko

    I thought about just leaving the pack behind. We hadn’t eaten anything yet, or drank much water for that matter, but we had all the extra clothes on all ready. The phone-slash-camera was already in my pocket so who cares about the pack? Do we really need the topo? Looks like we just sort of “go up” from here anyway. Ugh. Did I say I hate carrying the pack? I wish I were leading every pitch, even the scary ones, if only so that Dan would have to wrestle this beast instead of me.

    We were halfway up the wall, and the sun had barely started to rise. We began way too early by my account, but there was nothing to be done about that. We arrived in Yosemite Valley the day before, climbed Astroman as a warm up, then set about packing for the Regular Route on Half Dome. We had two objectives while we were here—quite simple on paper: free Half Dome, free El Capitan. Six words, two rock climbs, one monumental dream, and a career’s worth of experience and training leading up to it. So we thought, why delay any longer—let’s just head up to the “easier” of the two objectives and get reacquainted with the stone, as it had been several years since either of us had been in the valley.

    After lazily spending the day pruning the rack, prepping the food, and paring down clothes, we eventually made our way to the trail. We strolled along the beaten path only to bop up the Death Slabs at an even more leisurely pace. It was a quiet, beautiful day with no one around and spirits were high. But when we got to the base, the cacophony of clanking gear and the clambering of climbers jockeying for position was overwhelming and quickly shattered the peaceful beginnings to our adventure.

    Five parties congregated at the base, collectively learning and discussing how to fix ropes, jug lines, and overall strategy. It was basically the worst-case scenario for us to come upon. Then there were the parties already on the wall—four or so below the halfway point. It was a good ol’-fashioned clusterfuck.

    The climbers at the base were initially cordial, but the mood quickly tensed as we were met with an onslaught of rapid-fire questioning. “Have you guys done the route before? How hard do you climb? How many routes have you aid climbed? Ever a grade VI? How many hours do you plan to climb it in? Are you going to fix ropes? Free climb it?! Really?” They kept coming, but it didn’t matter; our answer was always the same: “We will work around you guys; just let us know what plan you’ve sorted out, and we’ll work ourselves in somehow.”

    That wasn’t good enough for them. It’s the valley, bro—everyone sizes everyone else up. You gotta know the pecking order and where you fit in. “Are you pros? Well Chad here met Alex Honnold once, so we got that going for us.”

    That sort of thing. Hours from the car, humans, and cell service, we had stumbled upon The Scene. Four of the parties were college-aged climbers who were here to do their first big wall and for, really, their first aid climb. The other party was a pair in their mid- to late forties who had done some bigger stuff back in the day but nothing recently. Our original plan? Get up with the sun (no alarm really) and just go. The new plan? Well the first pair was going to leave at midnight, the next party at 3:00 a.m., then 3:30, then 4:00, then so on until we were going to be behind an unsurpassable number of people.

    Jason and buddy on Half Dome

    Dan (left) and Jason. Photo: Jason Haas collection

    Each group became preoccupied with their own preparations and futile attempts at sleeping, so Dan and I kept to ourselves and agreed, we’d leave at 2:00 a.m., roughly six ours earlier than planned but before the majority of teams set off. We were concerned about freeing the Higbee Hedral in the dark, but figured if nothing else, this could be a “beta burn” on the route. We ate dinner—a can of fruit and some cold pizza we got from Curry Village—then laid down for a power nap. As darkness overcame the wall, you could feel the tenseness swell up inside each of the other groups. Unsure whispers and the erratic movement of headlamps kept us up as the others checked and rechecked their packs and the topo. The clanging of gear higher on the wall and awkward yells of “Off belay!” “What?!” “What?!” “Are you off belay?” “Climb on!” “Are you off belay?!” and so on played on repeat like some dubbed YouTube music video sensation gone viral.

    The team that planned to leave at midnight had come up to the base without down jackets or sleeping bags and were now getting restless from the cold, so at 10:00 p.m., they set off. As I lay in the dirt with one eye open, the pair, only fifteen feet from my head, clumsily tried to learn how to jug a fixed rope, in the dark, with a pack and gear, et cetera. I had spent four hours trying to sleep. When you concentrate really hard on falling asleep because you know how important it is for you to go to sleep right that instant, it never happens. Just after midnight, I came close to nodding off though. But that’s when two climbers came down the descent trail and nearly kicked Dan and me in the head as they stumbled back to their packs.

    Enough. Dan sat up. “Let’s just go,” I whispered. We scarfed another can of fruit and the last cold slice of pizza and headed up around 1:00 a.m. It was surprisingly warm near the base, and the climbing was quite casual, even by headlamp. Dan and I had both done plenty of alpine climbing, big walls, and 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell competitions to feel comfortable with the night. And honestly, it felt good to be moving since sleep wasn’t going to happen.

    Stillness returned to the night, and I was once again blanketed in peacefulness. We quickly dispatched pitch after pitch until catching the 10:00 p.m. party as the sun began to rise. They were kind enough to let us pass, and we scurried on by as quickly as possible. We linked some pitches to gain extra distance, but now we were losing that lead as I sat wedged in the top of the chimney, like a cork in a wine bottle. I prided myself on wide climbing skills too, I thought. Hmm, only all that much more embarrassing when YOSAR shows up, I supposed.

    Photo of Half Dome by Tristan Greszko.

    Photo of Half Dome by Tristan Greszko.

    Dan and I had traded the pack just as we had swapped leads all through the night. The chimney pitch was Dan’s. Lucky bastard. I comfortably sat at the base of the chimney, all sprawled out atop a picnic-table-sized block wedged in the bottom of it. The route had surprised me—there were currently at least twenty people on this wall right now, and that was just today. How many ascents does this route see each year? Hundreds? Thousands? So why all the loose blocks? Microwaves precariously perched, waiting to go. The route had a very “mountaineering” feel to it, as if the blocks were simply waiting for the mountain to shudder from the cold and slough off all the loose debris. At least it had nice belay ledges. And lots of them! Nearly every belay was on a comfy ledge, and this chimney was no exception. A bit cool from the cavernous air, but comfy nonetheless. Man, what a giant chimney too! At the start, it’s wider than two outstretched arms. While it slowly pinches down to a squeeze chimney, there was a striking dihedral with a thin crack in it off to the left just before the real groveling began. Dan should be transitioning into the corner now—but why isn’t he? “Get out of that chimney—go for the 5.11 variation. It looks way better.”

    “It’s wet.” Dang it. And I have the pack. When going through a chimney with a pack on, the best strategy is to put the pack on a long sling between your legs and let it swing around as an off-balancing and erratic metronome. But the start to this chimney traversed a bunch and had too many loose blocks in it for a pack to swing freely. It had to be tamed. So on the shoulders it went. Until the end, when I was forced to nearly heel-toe. I lowered the pack off my shoulder and clipped it to my harness. I could see the light through the small opening and wiggled up to it. The pack was stuck. Of course it was stuck. It always gets stuck. Thrutching, cursing, wriggling. Ugh. The pack is stuck, and now I’m stuck. I wouldn’t be stuck if I were leading. Stupid pack. I became the awkward kind of cold too, the kind you get ice climbing or from sitting on a chair lift after bombing a blue groomer. I was cold from the crisp morning air and yet sweating from exertion, trying to free the bane of my existence. I couldn’t win. Finally, I squirted out of the hole and stared down a thousand feet of air to the base of Half Dome. The route is ledgy and largely shielded from exposure on the lower half, which we had climbed in the dark, and so this was the first moment of full-blown, unadulterated, wind-beneath-my-wings kind of exposure.

    Two thoughts came to my mind. First was, “Hey, glad we started at 1:00 a.m. as there are the four other parties, all crammed together only three pitches up.” And as I turned my attention to the pack, legs doing a full-leg press against the wall, back straining and forearms burning as I pulled outward from the wall with all my weight to free the pack, ass hanging three feet out from the wall, I thought, “If this pack comes rifling out of this hole, and I go sailing off this thing, does that blow my onsight?” It’s funny, I know, but I was seriously concerned about having to redo the pitch just because of this damn pack. I changed my stance, locked my leg into the chasm, and continued to pull. The stitches strained, some threads popped, and then the pack did the same. “Whoa-ho-ho!”

    With arms reeling, Dan pulled in some slack, and I regained my balance. Okay, then. I shouldered the pack and climbed the last fifteen-foot finger crack up to the belay.

    I set off on the next pitch in search of another perfectly comfortable belay ledge. Consistently feeling disappointed and as if I could be picky based on the ledges on the lower half of the route, I linked three pitches into one. Since I had long since been out of view, Dan drifted in and out of daydreams and boredom by watching the party below, who were now about to gain the picnic-table chockstone at the base of the chimney I had gotten stuck in. I had gone off belay and was starting to pull up rope as Dan started to follow when I heard a blood-curdling “aaaaaaaah!”

    I pulled in a handful of slack and braced for Dan’s full weight. But the rope never came tight. I tugged on the rope, but it didn’t move. It didn’t go taught or slack. The rope didn’t move for a long time, but he hadn’t fallen. I just sat on my ledge in silence until the rope began to slowly move again. Dan inched his way up to me. When he popped over the final bulge he had the total you-are-not-going-to-believe-this! face Chunk from the Goonies had. “Dude, you know that block you belayed from at the base of the chimney?”

    “Yeah?”

    “So that guy in blue below us was beach whaled on top of it. He was on his knees and about to stand up, with his head down and butt up like downward dog in yoga, when the block literally dropped two feet deeper into the chimney! He totally surfed that thing down until it rewedged deeper in the chimney! It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen—that block is huge!”

    “Whoa—crazy. Must have been from all that He-man-style leg pressing I was doing trying to get that pack out,” I wisecracked. And then we simply forgot about it as we turned our focus to the real obstacle of the route—the upper zigzag pitches. We caught another party that was on the wall from the day before, ate some lunch, and wrestled with the upper headwall. We topped out by midday, never to see the party below us again. It then rained for eight straight days in the valley, so we left after the first few to seek drier weather in the Needles before heading back home to Colorado.

    I had made a deal with my wife that I would drive to Yosemite with Dan and climb while she and the kids would fly to Minnesota and get a head start on a family vacation with her parents. I would then drive back to Colorado with Dan, then on to Minnesota by myself. Dan knew I’d be bored on the drive to the Midwest, but he isn’t known as a prankster. That’s more my role in our relationship. So it surprised me when he sent a text message—“You remember that chimney on Half Dome? It fell down!”

    What was he talking about? I knew I was out of it from the cross-country drive, half of it on my own, but what was he talking about? “For real. Check SuperTopo.” I lost service as I rolled into eastern Nebraska, home of the dreaded dead zone. Two hours of no service was more than enough to make my curiosity nearly kill me. I rolled into a gas station in Lincoln and trolled the website as I gassed up. Sure enough, there was a photo of the whole chimney cleaved clean off. It almost looked Photoshopped. I still didn’t believe it, so I read on, page after page of comments. Sure enough, the chimney had finally succumbed to gravity. The thing was huge too! It must have been as thick as a house and a full pitch tall. The Park Service’s geologist blamed it on a torrential downpour that happened over Fourth of July weekend and the loosening of soil and all that, but the crazy part is, when you stood at the base of it, you thought, wow, this is a big chimney that’s a part of this massive rock face.

    It’s interesting to think about the event after it happened. It never really crossed my mind that the chimney could have fallen off while we were on it—it was too big, and I assumed that the block shifted, not that the chimney widened. That never happens, especially on the human timeline compared to a geological one. Plus, the route has been done thousands of times—it’s in the 50 Classic Climbs of North America book after all. Which is an interesting note—many of the routes in that book are kind of piles. They often aren’t even the best routes on the respective formation. But still, I never thought, jeez, this flake is hardly attached to the wall—I hope I don’t leg press it off as I chimney behind it. My mother would say, “Be more careful,” or something to that effect, while Layton Kor would have said, “Good thing you climbed it while you still could.”

    Months later, I still don’t know how I really feel about being one of the last to do the route—on one hand, I love tick lists and was glad to check this one off. I feel lucky that after having two kids, I finally made this a priority and was able to sneak it in at the eleventh hour. Yet on the other hand, the fact that the chimney fell down only reinforces the notion that since my time is so limited with children, a business, life, et cetera, I need to stick to more contemporary classics such as those in 50 Favorite Climbs of North America—now there’s a book for you! Time will tell if the significance of it all will sink in, but after doing this for the better part of my adult life, I think ten years from, now I’ll cherish the same thing I do from all these kinds of trips—how much I enjoyed hanging out with my partner and how I wish I had shared more memories with him.

    Jason Haas runs Fixed Pin Publishing and lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two children, Corbin and Adele. However, they are now thinking about moving since he has busted all the doorframes from leg pressing them just like he did that chimney.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Last Thoughts On The Dirtbag from Cairns Film on Vimeo.

    Last Thoughts on The Dirtbag, a Short Film

    Aug 10 • Locations • 587 Views

    Two years ago I pitched an idea about a film I really had nothing more than a spark of an idea for to Greg Cairns. I’d seen Cedar Wright and James Lucas’s “The Last Dirtbag” and felt compelled to offer something of my own to this “conversation” about dirtbags and whether or not any real ones exist anymore.

    by Luke Mehall

    Of course the question is bullshit, people still live in the dirt, out of bags, we have just entered a new era, one where technology can take away a lot of the mystery of climbing, and it is getting harder and harder to make extended stays on public land.

    In the end the question did not matter. What mattered was how I felt about my time as a dirtbag. I ended up structuring the piece I wrote to go with the film similarly to how Bob Dylan structured “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie“. Climbing and the characters I’ve met along the way mean everything.

    In the end I don’t care about the word dirtbag, it’s just a word. And our film, it’s just a film, but we labored over it in love, and I have a lot of love for our community. And I wrote this piece from the heart, and as a writer that is all I can aim for. I hope you enjoy it, as much as we enjoyed making it.

    Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine, and author of American Climber, The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed. 

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • For The Love Of Climbing from Sean Feiertag on Vimeo.

    For The Love of Climbing, A short Film by Kathy Karlo

    Aug 9 • Locations • 716 Views

    Good friend of The Climbing Zine, and contributor for our next issue, Kathy Karlo recently created this beautiful short film with some of her friends. Of course we are suckers for Indian Creek footage, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it. Here’s some words from Kathy about the project: 

    Sean Feiertag came to me one day and said: “You are constantly surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do. It’s inspiring.”

    He then asked me if I wanted to make a short film that delivered the message: do what you love with love.

    For both Sean and I, it’s always been about making every moment count and sharing them with the people we love the most. We knew that this video would resonate with people—not only climbers, but anybody with a dream and a passion for life. We don’t need much more beyond that.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Rhiannon art

    Sacred Space by Drew Thayer (art by Rhiannon Williams)

    Jul 31 • Locations • 326 Views

    Right now, this detail is all that matters: the carabiner just fell back into the crack, and you’re staring it down as if it’s the only damn thing in the whole universe. Your middle finger brushes it aside on the first pass, then just lightly levers it toward the waiting index and thumb with a pinch of rope between. My god, could this take any longer? Your right foot is skittering on a joke of a nubbin and about to blow; sweat drips down your helmet straps. An audible click signals that the carabiner is finally closed.

    by Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor (this piece is an excerpt from Volume 8)

    Art by Rhiannon Williams. 

    The cam looks good…good enough. You only have two left and neither look like they’ll be much use. You scan above again, as if the geometry of the wall might have changed in the last few minutes. No such luck. There’s either a nut placement up there—and you have the size—or it’s thirty feet to the ledge, and you’re gunning it in one go. Forearms fatigue, but calves burn, and this stance isn’t all that good anyway; it’s time to go up. Your mind quiets again as holds connect to moves, to sequences…a sketchy nut just fits in the fissure, and no time to ponder; motion must continue. Feet press and fight for purchase, an upward glance yields a quick calculation: you can reach. Big breath, smear a high foot, and you lunge to slap the ledge. It’s not as good as you hoped, but you already decided you wouldn’t let go. So you don’t.

    It ain’t pretty, but you flop your belly onto that ledge and kick your legs to shuffle your chest forward, until you can pull up and sit back. As the oxygen creeps back into your brain, your eyes relax and you slowly become aware of the vast expanse behind…crags and trees stand in still silhouettes against the open sky. Your breath returns as you fiddle in gear, tie your cordelette, and settle into the rituals of the belay. Reach down and pop a shoe off each heel…toes sigh with relief, and you can’t help smiling. The world returns to a semblance of order; for now, you do not have to be bold. Eyes focus out to behold the greater place. Distances fade away to the horizon, beyond reckoning.

    A microcosm, a little vertiginous window, a limbo stance, a temporary perch. The hours spent tethered above on belay ledges vary in style but are all similarly removed from the order and routine of the world of clocks. We’ve spent this time above quiet woods, harsh deserts, howling steppes, gated tennis-and-golf communities, above the shimmering lights of Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, above nothing but the vast expanse of British Columbian interior, ranges and valleys and torrid rivers stretching beyond comprehension toward the Arctic Circle. We have passed these hours shivering, huddling out of the wind, sweltering in the sun and praying for water.

    The emotional landscape we bring to these ledges is as diverse and dynamic as their physical states. Sometimes the space is pure; sometimes it’s as cluttered as the calendars and desks we left in a hurry to get out here. Sometimes we ask terrible questions: What if this nut blows? What the hell am I even doing here? Sometimes we just want to get the f*#% off this thing. Everything flows through: courage, cowardice, gratitude, disgust. Fear.

    At eighteen years old, twelve miles deep into the Sierra Nevada, I first knew the paralyzing fear of being stranded when my partner fell and lost consciousness for five seconds that felt like eternity. I looked out from the wall at the huge vault of air around me, plunging down two thousand feet to the river and up the slabs and cliffs across the valley, not a soul in sight, and realized that despite my fear, the wilderness does not care…I was beginning to learn the meaning of alone.

    Hot and cold, confident and doubting, winter and summer, we pass though unending cycles and occasionally pause on a ledge for a finite moment. I’ve huddled in a shaded alcove and pressed out vertical push-ups on the wall to fight my shivering. I’ve stared upward in vice-like focus at my partner, hesitant and scared on lead, on one of those pitches where he has to get to the next stance. I’ve wondered the horrible, essential question: will we make it? I’ve relaxed back on my tether and turned off my lamp and watched the stars pierce the black void above, soaking in the velvet silence of night augmented by the soft tinkle of aluminum on stone.

    In the Black Canyon, off-route and tired and struggling upward in our third hour of darkness, I hung from the wall and searched the convolutions and aberrations of the rock above for any passage to our deliverance to the flat earth. Shivering above the dark abyss, I committed to selling my rack and taking up a “normal” pastime, anything that could never get me in such a lunatic position. Such plans we make, promises, bargains…and rock remains above. On that dark night, we groped the braille of the wall like blind men; each time, we found the weakness and gained ground. I dragged my belly across the “womb fight” and climbed up until the world turned flat, and we stood above the canyon rim exhausted and content, and it was a good day.

    On occasion, we arrive on a ledge and get to experience, for once, a truly quiet slice of time. For a brief half hour, the world of men and machines is reduced to the gentle clink of metal and the slow rhythm of feeding rope, and we have nothing to behold but the whole wild world. Treetops sway in telltale breezes, ravens whirl on invisible thermals, swifts dart into their secret nooks. A deer walks through the meadow and pauses to eat, unaware of our presence.

    Sometimes, while I’m perched alone on a belay ledge in the high places and I can feel the cold or thirst or constant grind of uncertainty eroding my patience, I wonder about the other human souls who have passed a similar time here. What thoughts have dwelled on this ledge? What emotions have reverberated off this stone…confidence, despair…hope? A climber has reclined in this small nook amidst the insane verticality of this world and paused during an audacious act…what inspirations have been born here, planted in minds to sprout elsewhere, around campfires and towns and homes.

    Do you ever consider—only a thin cross-section of humanity has ever visited this place. Arriving here requires skill, stamina, and courage; continuing onward may demand much more. Here, we share a common ground with everyone who’s ever rested on this perch: a commitment to struggle, a belief in the value of boldness and the purity of suffering, perhaps a wound within that never quite healed. Perhaps a belief in something larger than our fickle selves, something we’re learning how to chase…

    …and the rope pulls tight…three steady syllables of your partner’s voice echo on the wind. As slowly as the spell was woven, it suddenly breaks—it is time to work again. Legs crunch upward, and shoes snap over heels; toes wince for a moment in pain. Laces tied, jacket stowed, chalk bag opened, cold hands begin fiddling with the anchor…a time of rest is over, and it is now time to follow this rope upward in pursuit of the vertical unknown.

    Drew Thayer is a based out of Laramie, Wyoming, and despite the demands of grad school, he cannot contain his fascination for the physical and mental journeys we travel in the vertical world. He explores these pursuits through climbing and writing and remains committed to pursuing type-two fun on objectives that seem a little too big. He records musings and images of his ventures at www.carrotsandpb.blogspot.com.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Coils_Velocity_Green_2016

    Review: Sterling Velocity Rope

    Jul 29 • Gear • 505 Views

    I needed the perfect rope for my project. It had to be an 80 meter rope and it had to withstand a little more abuse than your average skinny line. I know that because I first worked the route, a 39 meter crack climb in Indian Creek, on a 9.2mm rope that quickly got a core shot when it ran over a sharp edge, sending the rope into an early retirement.

    Retail: $305.30 (for the 80 meter dry treated version)

    The line would be a first ascent, and had the trademark crisp edges that many new Indian Creek routes have. After burning through a skinny line, I knew I wanted something thicker, but I also wanted to haul as little weight up the wall as possible (Creek racks are already heavy enough). Thus, I chose the Velocity, a 9.8mm rope from Sterling.

    The King (whipper) by Brittney Ahrens

    Taking a whipper on the Velocity. Photo by: Brittney Ahrens.

    Touted by Sterling as the rope Chris Sharma uses while working routes, I found it to suit my needs quite well, and most importantly it didn’t core shot when it ran over the edges. Checking in at 62 grams per meter puts the rope on the lighter end of ropes its diameter, a definite plus. The handling of the rope is smooth for a 9.8mm, a supple yet firm feel.

    My feeling about this rope is that it is a perfect “project workhorse”. It is a great rope to use while projecting your line of choice, running up a multi-pitch classic, using as a toprope, or in the case of this testing, using it to both project and to use on the send.

    The sexiest color of Velocity available.

    The sexiest color of Velocity available.

    I found this rope to have all the necessary qualities of what I’m looking for in a workhorse, and at 9.8mm that is about the skinniest I’m willing to go. (I’ve worn through way too many skinnier lines on multi-pitch routes that have resulted in core shots.)

    In the end the rope fit all the qualities of what I needed for a long Indian Creek project, and it withstood the abuse well enough I’ll be able to use it again on the next one. All in all, a great workhorse for many disciplines: rock, ice (the rope is dry treated), mixed, multipitch, and probably even a big wall. I’d use a skinnier line on a sport climbing project when going for the send, but other than that if you are going to own one 80 meter rope the Velocity would be a solid choice.

    -LM

    Sterling Velocity (80 meters) on backcountry.com

    Sterling Velocity (70 meters) on backcountry.com

    Sterling Velocity (60 meters) on backcountry.com 

    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. 

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • down canyon (north chasm, home of the cruise on the right)

    Benighted in The Black Canyon – (excerpt from American Climber by Luke Mehall)

    Jul 28 • Locations • 1895 Views

    My path as a climber had to face a most real enemy: pure unadulterated fear. This fear manifested itself in the biggest baddest canyon, nearby, the most intimidating chasm in Colorado, and even the entire United States, The Black Canyon.

    Excerpt from American Climber, the new memoir by Luke Mehall

    Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 10.01.54 PM

    American Climber is available in print and on Kindle

    “The Black” as we called it, was basically in our backyard. Had it been further away I could have never faced it, never seen the terror or transcendence it has to offer. Since it was close, only an hour and a half away, there was no other option to face it if you really wanted to call yourself a climber.

    My buddy Gene, 5.14 Gene we called him, after a Halloween outfit he wore so perfectly one year, an eighties brightly colored spandex get up, had the enthusiasm of ten climbers. He was the kind of guy who would be standing on a bar yelling, “Let’s get wild” at two in the morning, and then crush 5.12s the next day. One day, when I proposed we did a big climb in The Black, called The Cruise, he was on board with no hesitation.

    It could be the suicides. More people die from suicide than climbing, exponentially, in The Black. Was it their spirits that haunted the inside of this chasm, this giant gaping hole in the earth? Was that why I could never sleep properly in the campground before tomorrow’s climb? I’ve heard the ancient people, the Utes, the inhabitants of the land before the white man came along, believed the canyon was haunted as well. But, I am not a religious man, nor a superstitious man, and I don’t try to come up with answers to the big questions, I’m just here. And, when I was there, in the throes of the battle of mind and body, climbing a steep pitch of pegmatite split granite, I felt more alive, more in the moment, and clearer than at any point in my existence.

    Gene and Luke in college.

    Gene and Luke in college.

    We arrived at night, too late, drinking Red Bulls on our drive and smoking weed. We watched the World Series, Gene a child of the East Coast was rooting for his Red Sox, so I obliged and watched with him. I don’t recall if they won or lost. I do, however, remember this climb of The Cruise.

    We awoke with the darkness, after fitfully tossing and turning for a few hours, so basically there was no solid sleep. Sleep is the magic ingredient for life, as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t operate well without it. At this point in my climbing, I wanted to test myself. Sure I was a lifestyle climber, but I wanted to grow. I wanted to prove myself. Not for recognition, but for inner growth. The tests that the Black Canyon offered were more memorable and more valuable than anything higher education presented in the classroom.

    So Gene and I woke up, ate oatmeal, slammed coffee, pooped, and shouldered the ropes and gear as we slipped into a gully of poison ivy and fear. The sun came up as we found the base of the route. We were already fatigued and tired, and had we known the angle of repose that an experienced climber has we would have suggested something smaller, easier. That said, a climber can only gain experience through experiences. Everything else is just bullshit, talk, and the world has enough of that.

    We looked at each other with the eyes of eternity before we started up. Gene led the first part, a wandering fractured slab, that leads to the base of a giant wide crack. As I belayed and looked up the wall in front of us seemed infinite, that the top was so far away I couldn’t conceptualize an end in sight. And these are the greatest climbs, when one is fully engaged with the experience, having no idea how it will turn out.

    The off-width, wide crack was my lead. I wanted it, but only in the concept of an idea. The actual climbing of the crack was part horror, part beauty. The crack, wide enough to get my elbows and knees in, made me work for it. The Gunnison River slowly roared below, and soon my voice would be muffled, we would only communicate in the brotherhood of the rope, when I would pull up the rope to clip Gene would know exactly what I was doing. When I ran out of rope and pulled it tight to Gene he would have to start climbing. Two figure eight knots together, two knots of eternity on each end of a ropelegth.

    Jamming my elbows and knees in, in fear, a simple math equation, a puzzle that demanded athleticism and the management of the mind. I was also climbing like an amateur, even though I had some Black Canyon climbs under my belt, I still fumbled and made movements like a scared beginner. I wore a small pack, filled with a hydration bladder and snacks for the climb, pears and some lemon bars my girlfriend had made.

    As I was a hundred feet from Gene, my body slammed into the crack, I felt a sensation of water dripping down my back. The hydration bladder had leaked and it dripped all the way down to my feet. I tried to move upwards and my shoes were covered in water. I didn’t have a piece of gear in for twenty feet, and I panicked. My heart beat faster than it ever had in my entire life. Relax. Breathe. These are rarely followed but useful mantras in everyday life. In climbing a simple mantra can keep you alive. The fear is always greater than anything else, you tell yourself. Just breathe, you can get through this.

    I took my hand, put chalk on it, and rubbed the chalk on my feet. I prayed to God. I talked to myself like a drunken fool. I finally composed myself, continuing upward progress until the rope got tight. I was still thirty feet from the next belay ledge and had no more rope. Gene would be forced to start climbing, not knowing whether or not he was on belay. He wasn’t. I went into survival mode and moved, inch-by-inch, off-width climbing, one of the slowest forms of movement known to man.

    I pulled up to the belay ledge and felt like I was going to puke. It took me hours to climb that pitch, I was humbled, hungry, hobbled, a mess of a man, and we still had a thousand feet of granite above us.

    Dave led the crux pitch, a dihedral that lasted a ropelength, delicately dancing up on dime sized edges, placing gear when he could and running it out when he couldn’t. I was amazed at his skill, and didn’t know if I could have led that pitch. I climbed slow and desperately, already exhausted in the autumn sun.

    The next pitch was my lead. It was a gently overhanging dihedral with good holds. I grasped for them and my forearms failed me, cramping, unable to perform the basic task of holding on. I told Gene to lower me back to the belay. He did. I was wasting precious time, but to mention it would have been to waste more time. Gene was in better shape than I was and went up to take care of business. He did. The sun was fading.

    I led up and got off route, wandering up a granite slab to nowhere and then climbing back down. We were barely halfway up the wall, and had only an hour of daylight left. I finally got on route and made a belay at the base of a massive flake. When Gene reached my perch the sun had set. We had several pitches to go, probably seven hundred feet, and talked it out. We were both so exhausted we couldn’t bear to continue in the darkness. We didn’t want to go down because we would have to leave all our pieces as anchors, hundreds of dollars in gear, our most valuable and important possessions.

    So we hunkered down, our first benightment. Time stopped and a great darkness overcame us. It finally happened. An epic mistake of inefficiency. It was not like some climbing mistakes though, all we had to face was suffering at the moment, not injury or death. Sure, you could die in a benightment, if weather moved in and you or your partner became wet and hypothermic, but the stark clear sky suggested that would not happen. We just had to suffer.

    Luke's "benighted" face.

    Luke’s “benighted” face.

    And we did. We didn’t speak for a while, not out of anger towards one another, but for indifference at the situation. We were supposed to be celebrating on the rim, with the darkness below, instead we drank nothing, our water was gone, and we were one with the darkness.

    The ledge was just enough to sit upon, nothing else. We started to shiver and huddled together, wrapping the rope around us for some protection. We were too cold and uncomfortable to sleep. An eternity went by, and then another eternity. We checked our watch for time and were always disappointed.

    We talked about what we wanted. We wanted food and water, and a woman to hold for warmth. We rubbed each other’s shoulders, trying to keep warm. We were cold, on the verge of dangerous cold. I thought of my girlfriend, Christina. I longed to hold her tight.

    In the middle of the night Gene dropped his headlamp. It fell twenty feet down in the rock and we could see it, but there was no way we would get it. Somehow I’d packed an extra, tiny headlamp that he could use for the rest of the night.

    We waited and waited, and lifetimes seem to pass by. When that sun hit us it was the most glorious feeling in the world. We greeted the sun as our God. It blessed us with warmth, and we forced ourselves to soldier on. Climbing should be like this, I knew then and forever. For you should have to suffer for your dreams. You should have to prove to your dreams that you are worthy. Some dreams, like climbing dreams, often demand lives, they demand that young men or women are killed in their prime; such dangerous dreams do we have as climbers.

    On day one I was the weak link. I took too long on my leads and was unable to perform on others. On day two I had some chance at redemption. Gene was feeling extremely dehydrated and requested that I lead. I obliged, and I felt like I was climbing for the both of us, you always are in a partnership, but this day felt different, this felt like survival climbing, which I guess the nature of climbing has its roots in survival.

    The second lead of the day involved a traverse with over a thousand feet of air beneath my feet, feeling it out, discovering how the holds felt and the best way to lean into them. On these leads I think I discovered I was truly a climber because I didn’t hate it. So much had gone wrong, we were out of food and water and my body felt terrible. But, this, the movement upwards for survival, somehow there was a great divine purpose.

    The exposed traverse high up on The Cruise. (note: this photo was taken on a subsequent climb, years after the story being written about here)

    The exposed traverse high up on The Cruise. (note: this photo was taken on a subsequent climb, years after the story being written about here)

    Gene felt worse and worse and depending on me more, which somehow made me feel better. We moved at a snail’s pace up the wall as it became more and more fractured near the top. And, finally it was over.

    We craved water more than anything. Then we drank the sky. It was so blue, and we felt so blessed to be alive. It was a privilege to suffer. We knew that then. Soon, I had what we wished we had more than anything in the world while freezing and starving on that ledge throughout the night: food, water, and a woman.

    That night I held my girlfriend tightly. Under the cover of blankets and love a journey had been completed, and the magic of the Black Canyon was alive in my heart.

    This piece is an excerpt from Mehall’s memoir, American Climber, available in print and on Kindle. 

    Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 10.01.54 PM

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover7 (4)

    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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • image5

    A Love Letter To Climbing by Ana Ally

    Jul 22 • Locations • 1192 Views

    This year at the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, Wyoming, we held a “love letter to climbing” contest. Ana Ally was the winner, this is her letter. Enjoy. 

    photo by: Timothy Grybauskas

    Climbing, my love. As I sit here, I struggle to find the right words to describe you. I am about to embark on a philosophical journey of the ages. The masters have all tried to tackle this. Tried to describe an ineffable beauty. But how do I even begin? Where do I start? Should I try to express how you make me feel? How you influence my every dream. My entire existence. When it’s just you and me together, my hands moving along your rock hard exterior, slipping into your pockets, sliding between your two inch cracks. Nothing else in the world matters. Sometimes I wake up from a dream to find myself reaching in front of me, my hand in the air, curling my thumb in against my palm. It only took one hand jam to know I was yours forever. One hand jam to know that I was completely and utterly in love with you. When I find myself in one of your jam cracks and I slide my hands in, I know I’m safe. I know you have me. I know I won’t fall out. Sometimes, I just want to feel my bare hands against your hard rock. I know it’s dangerous, I know I could hurt myself, but there is just something so thrilling, so titilating, about unprotected jamming. Feeling you right there against me as I carefully place my hand inside you. Sometimes it hurts a little, but secretly I think I might love that too. Your every form, whether it be sandstone, granite, or limestone, has its own unique beauty. It’s own inspiring line. Without question, you are my one true love. Forever and always, through the crux, through the choss, and beyond.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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