Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ice Videos

Paul McSorley loving the sweet first pitch of the Replicant. Paul, a former Bow Valley resident now 'living in flip-flops' on the coast, can still send the pillars with a furious vengeance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two Extremes

Just finished a few days of filming in Joshua Tree, California, a place I hadn't been since I was on my first major road trip with Will S back in the day.  If it wasn't for the pain in my fingertips and my aching muscles, I'd call it one of the most pleasant rock climbing trips ever.  Warm temps, short approaches, amazing lines, and incredible vistas.

Now I am in the Canadian Rockies with Paul McSorely and Jorge Ackerman, where yesterday we woke up to -15°C temps, fragile ice, and it seems I am getting sick.  Why do I like this sport again?

Paul was a Bow Valley resident and ice aficionado now living in 'retirement'.  He wears flip-flops every day of the year in Squamish.  Jorge is the best young climber in Argentina, with first ascents on Fitz Roy and a hot lap up the Ferrari route on the Torre.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Birthday at Home

I have spent my birthday every year in recent memory on the road, away from home.  November is prime road tripping season, a sweet prolonging of the summer as Squamish turns into a dark and wet town for half the year.  This was my birthday last year, spent 30+ pitches up on El Capitan, during a trip up the Golden Gate:

El Cap Birthday from Jason Kruk on Vimeo.

The dark months are the personal hell of many residents, but I've always enjoyed the downtime of rain.  A chance to take care of the overflow of office work that piles up on my desk, take in some much needed culture from the big city down the road, and get my freak on in the kitchen.  I've always tried to ensure my happiness isn't predicated upon the weather.

By chance the sun shined brilliantly on this, my 23rd birthday, so I got out on my favourite route, the Grand Wall with two of my favourite people: Elise and Paul.  It turned out to be the best birthday of recent memory, Elise even baked me a cake and two pies.  Here's what it looked like:

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Summer That Was

Summer in Squamish is over.  With every year they keep getting better.
I can't say I rock climbed much this summer.  Instead, I enjoyed the simple joys of community in the perfect ocean-side mountain town I call home.  I drank espresso every morning on the patio and was awoken by the incredible vistas that extend from the Howe Sound fjord of the Pacific to the Garibaldi icecap.  The summer was about kitchen explosions and creative colabs of soul food cooking, watering my rooftop garden, drinking lots of good wine, and throwing some really great parties.  My batteries have been recharged and I am now ready to think about getting after it in the fall and winter.  Almost overnight I have grown hungry again for the mountains.

The website did an interview with me a couple weeks ago.  Can't say I had anything too stunning to say, but you can find it here.
My patio, the Chief, and the disco ball.  I rigged this one with care: on loan to me from Hevy Duty's living room, it's the original (circa 1970) from the old Squamish bowling alley.
 My day job for many summer weeks.  Here are three CBC students about to summit 'the jewel of the Joffre Range' Mt. Hartzell.
Eventually you head south.  Sweet Smith Rocks with Elise and Kafka the dog.
And then a little further south...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Gravity Bong

Colin Moorhead loves rock climbing more than anyone I know.  This year, he has been in great form, stronger than I've ever seen him.  He recently completed one of the best hard lines to go up on the Chief.  I came out of rock climbing hiatus to accompany him up the FFA of his Prow Wall vision, the Gravity Bong.  Was quite the pleasure.

Beta can be found here

Dick Wheater's photos are here

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Boogie 'Til You Poop

When one of the funniest and most outrageous things imaginable happens to you and is caught on film, I reckon it's your duty to share it with the world.

Boogie 'til You Poop from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

Sooo...  some background info:

This was filmed during the Squamish Mountain Festival for Cedar Wright's Squamish in a Day video.  The festival is always a highlight of the summer and I was heavily involved this time, giving a slideshow on opening night with alpine legend Barry Blanchard, teaching a clinic, and deejaying at the afterparty.  The Thursday night is always one of my favourite events, the pro photo shootout.  I was feeling especially festive that night because four of my friends were featured: Jon Walsh, John Dickey, Andy Burr, and Paul Bride.  I remember lots of free drink tickets and people refilling my glass with the exceptionally potent Howe Sound Brewpub beer.  I was not in fine form the next morning, but was awoken early by Cedar on the phone, reminding me we were going to go filming.

Cedar wanted to shoot me on the 5.11 off-width Boogie 'Til You Puke because as he said "off-width footage is always the best".  I was pretty sure that even in my weakened state I'd have little trouble with the pitch, as I had done it a few times before and never considered it a 'hard' off-width.  I don't consider myself a great off-width climber, but for whatever reason on alpine routes or bigwalls, I always seem to be the one who has to lead them.  Cedar mic'ed me, and the bulky hardware sat in my front pocket of my pants, getting in the way of my technique.  I felt quite queezy, and had to use the bathroom a few times already that day.

I grunted and sweated my way up the pitch, it certainly felt harder than it should have.  I finally passed the crux, and was tired of pushing up the only cam that would fit, so I left it in place, hand-stacking and knee-locking my way to the top.  I was quite run-out when the crack tapered down slightly in size so I remember squeezing my hand-stacks extra hard and really working to properly wedge my knee in.  I remember having the need to crap but holding it in.

When my knee became stuck, I tried to remain very calm and rational.  I did my very best to determine how it went in and reverse it, but to no avail.  The pain was extreme.  After several minutes I told Cedar he had to come down and help me out, it felt quite serious.  At least 25 minutes went by and despite Cedar's help, my knee remained stuck.  Quite a nightmare, really, I didn't know what to do.  I figured I must have gone in to shock, and would have thrown-up had I not been so dehydrated.

The need to go poo was overwhelming and the decision to just crap my pants was somewhat voluntary.  I thought it was worth it to be able to focus all my energy on getting my knee out.  Finally, I told Cedar just to pull as hard as he possibly could, I was willing to do anything to get free.  It hurt like hell, but with a good tug my knee came free and Will lowered me to the ground.

Andy and Cedar were unsure of what to do with the footage, they knew they just shot some of the best climbing footage ever but the release of it could be potentially damaging to me.  I was willing to look like a total chump on the internet if it would give the greater community pleasure.  It was my duty.  I told them they had to use it, it would go viral, and I would ask my sponsors for a raise.

I guess it's all sex and poop-jokes that really sell in this world.  It's funny that I'm trying hard at this pro-climber thing, trying to sell something, but no one cares about the routes I climb.  I crap my pants on camera and I get an inbox full of fan mail...

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Emperor

It's been a few years now since I've felt in decent rock climbing shape.  One problem with the whole multi-sport thing is unless your are supremely talented, it's hard to stay in top form in each one of the disciplines you practice.  This spring I had every intention of getting back into the sport of hard rock climbing and hopefully redpoint my hardest route to date.

I was trying.  I bouldered heavily while in Patagonia and came home with an edge up on spring training.  In Vancouver, I committed to training sessions in the climbing gym religiously for several weeks.  I just about glimpsed past strength levels too, when the fateful TSN Turning Point happened - I pulled a tendon pulley in my middle finger.  I was benched from holding any sort of grips, plastic or rockstone.  Even gripping ski poles was aggravating.  Finally, after a month and a half layoff, the finger felt just good enough to hold ice tools.  This development put and end to furious crimper training and I postulated on how to make the very most of my spring.
If alpine climbing was now the only thing in condition for me, there was one guy I knew I needed to get in contact with - Jon Walsh.  Jonny Red (JR) is my total hero.  He has climbed the kinds of routes around the globe that people dream of climbing.  Usually in an uncompromising, bold style - single push, fast, and free.  This is the very aesthetic that appeals to me.  His response was immediate and positive.  At the top of his hit list was a face I had dreamt about climbing since I was a kid, the storied Emperor Face of Mt. Robson.  We didn't have to talk tactics for very long to realize we were on the same page.  If we climbed fast with small packs we would only need a couple good days of weather, not the 5+ usually required for an ascent.  JR was adamant any face in the Rockies could be climbed in a weekend.  "I've realized I can climb continuously for 48 hours before I need to sleep," he claimed.
The Emperor Face from Mist Lake
The hike in is long, like 25 kms one-way long.  We ended up going in on three separate occasions; twice in May and then finally on June 19th.  The first trip ended in part due to bad weather and too much snow on the face, so on the second try we packed skis and our stiff touring boots just to hedge our bets.  Too much snow still clung to the rock on that attempt, so we switched into ski mode and attempted to ski off the very aesthetic Whitehorn.
The Whitehorn north face
I still haven't checked the map, but I reckon it was a ~60km, 12,000ft day of skiing car-to-car in 19 hours.
Hanging off an ice screw to clip in to your skis is tricky on a 50° face 
JR shredding
'Schrund work
The summer solstice seemed a ridiculous time to try and climb a 'winter' route, but with a plump snow pack this year and a mild spring, conditions were looking good for a try.  I had kept a full backpack packed just for Robson, incase we got the window we needed for another go.
On Friday the 18th, after deejaying the Test of Metal blockparty in Squamish, I hopped in my truck and drove the 10 hours through the night to meet Jon in the Robson parking lot mid-morning.  We hiked in quickly and established a camp below the face.
Despite the continuous, cerebral (read: scary) nature of the climbing, it was a pure pleasure to climb such entertaining and sustained mixed ground for so long.  We climbed quickly, swinging leads the entire way up the face.  I can call the hardest pitch I lead M7 with a straight face.  We hit the top of the face at midnight as lightning struck to the north, clouds enveloped around us, and it started to snow a little.  At the time the decision was pretty easy to go down the Emperor Ridge and not continue to the summit.  Now, I can't help but wonder 'what if?'
It always seemed a little silly to argue over the very definitions we climbers make up ourselves.  Summit or not, it definitely felt like a new route.  In correspondence with a longtime Rockies climber, another hero of mine, his point was clear: "we're not arguing black or white here, rather, different shades of ugly".
Look for a feature article I'm writing for Gripped Magazine.  Here are some of my photos:
And JR's route line:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Patagonia 2010 Part Three!

The majority of the alpine brothers and sisters returned with tales of defeat from the mountains. Our trailer park decided we needed a bit of a blowout to let off steam. We threw a 'gringo trailer trash' asado with the help of Eduardo, our friend and owner of the hostel and trailers.

Segal in gringo trailer trash costume… wait, this was taken weeks before the party!?.
The buzz among the party was of good weather. Everyone was scheming, making plans for the next window. I was unsure of what to do. Hayden was leaving the next day, and I was trying to decide exactly what to do. I had sworn I never wanted to climb the Supercanaleta ever again. We were sideswiped while cruising a pretty moderate route by today's standards, I couldn't help but feel bitter about the experience. As much as I wanted to just let it go, clean my hands of Fitz Roy, I couldn't. I needed to go back.

I didn't have to say much to Hayden before realizing he felt the same way. Immediately, Hayden got on the phone and initiated the painful process of extending an international flight 36 hours before departure. Thankfully, his parents went to bat for him over the phone back in the US. Now all he had to do was borrow enough gear to make up for what he had just sold!

For this try we decided to approach from the north via Paso Quadrado. We would be bringing everything with us this time, intent on summiting and rappelling down the shorter Franco-Argentine route on the other side of the mountain. It was a committing plan, only intensified by the fact we were planning on bringing only one rope. Descending back down the Supercanaleta with one rope would be so brutal, we never considered it an option. We were going up and over the mountain. Inshallah.

We started soloing up the couloir at 2:00 AM, and were at the first pitch of technical climbing before dawn. We climbed swiftly and sure, we wanted the perfect ascent this time.

Goulotting on the second try
HK high on the route
Rime time fun
A very fun pitch near the end of the technical climbing. I only wish this pitch was longer…
Cumbre! Me and HK soak it all in…
My excitement thinking we had it ‘in the bag’ was cut short by the realization that the fun part was now over, and we still had to get down. The summit of Fitz Roy is an intimidating place to be with only one rope.

On top, Hayden and I hugged and screamed into the wind. We had just sent the route in 11 hours ‘schrund to summit! We lingered for a couple minutes and then started to descend. We had very little margin for error on this notoriously tricky descent, but with key beta from our friends Neil and Joel, we nailed every one of the 30-plus rappels. Five or six hours later I rapped over the bergschrund just as it was getting dark. Touching down on the glacier I dug my headamp out of my pack and waited for Hayden. We were elated to climb up and over the mountain in the light of day. Our stove and bivy gear unused.

I had time for one more quick mission before I had to be on the bus out of town. I teamed up with Whit Magro from Bozeman for a lap up Aguja Poincenot. Whit had never been to the top of this cumbre before; I had. It was my first Patagonian summit: Will Stanhope and I endured a three day first ascent epic up the west aspect of the beast. Whit and I decided to climb the standard route up the east side, the famous Whillans-Cochrane (WI3 5.9 M4, 700m).

Whit cruising ropeless up fun mixed ground
Psyched on top! Absolutely bluebird out.
A nod to future projects - I'll be back. Wink, wink…
It was a casual, comfortable day. Whit and I topped out in three hours 'schrund-to-summit. We had tea back at Paso Superior, and boot skied down to Lago de Los Tres in 20 minutes flat. It was a fun route, a perfect end to a great trip. My love affair with this range is not over yet, I already have another trip to the range planned...

Special thanks goes to MEC, an organization never afraid to help small teams complete their dreams in the hills. I am very thankful to have access to all the best gear for these trips, please check out my sponsors' websites, click the links on page right! Thanks also to Petzl USA, for surely they make the finest ice climbing equipment for alpinism.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Patagonia Interlude: Tour de Bloc Western Boulder Regionals!

Sorry for the delay in Patagonia updates... I have been working hard in Vancouver instead of updating my blog. Hard to do both when you are an apathetic writer at the best of times...

I just returned from a long weekend in Kelowna, BC. I was setting and generally helping out for the adult regional bouldering championships being held there. The venue: Beyond the Crux climbing gym, my personal vote for the best gym and climbing training facility in Canada. I always jump at the opportunity to go hang with Mike and April Shannon, owners of the gym. Truly great people, they sure do know how to throw a comp and ensuing party.

Not only did I set, but I MC'ed the final round, busting out my best one-liners as the competitors did battle with the problems. Of note was the outdoor adventure theme. Competitors on the third problem had to literally swing across the gym over a pit of inflatable sharks with lazer beams. To top out number four, climbers had to successfully make Billy Bass the talking fish sing.

A great weekend was had all around. We kidnapped Gary, the thirty-year-old birthday boy, taking him to a surprise party at Mike and Apes'. A bonfire, tractor races, and wood-splitting contests ensued...

I don't think the movie I made last year about Mike ever witnessed widespread release, so I am posting it here. It documents Mike's general amplitude regarding the sport of climbing, and in particular, new bouldering first ascents. The problem, the Pant Pisser, is located in the Kelowna Boulderfields above Mike's place.

The Pant Pisser from Jason Kruk on Vimeo.

The absolutely thrilling recap of my Patagonia trip is coming very soon, I promise!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Patagonia 2010 Part Two!

Hayden and I adopted the tactic of 'if the weather looks marginal, we take our gear for a hike up the glacier'. That is to say: if it cleared, we wanted to be poised to strike at the base of the route. So we packed our gear and hiked in to high camp, prepared to auger in until we got up something. Our first goal was going to be Exocet on Cerro Standhart.

Our alarm went off at 2:00 AM, Hayden's 19th birthday! We blasted some Notorious BIG and pounded coffee to get psyched up. No one mentioned the fact that it was raining and the winds were nuking, we were going hiking...

Hayden hiking below the east face of Cerro Torre. Most of the trail breaking was knee-deep wallowing.
We were laughing at ourselves pretty hard the whole day, conditions were terrible. Still, we pushed on in the high winds and sideways rain.

Hayden and I at the 'schrund. We're bailing...
Descending back to camp in the Valley...
Thoroughly defeated, we crawled back into our tent to wait out the rest of the weather. Our most recent forecast indicated that tomorrow was supposed to be poor, but there was potential for a two day stretch of no precip and low wind the day after. We wanted to go as big as possible during this window, so we decided to try the biggest route we thought was possible in current conditions - the Supercanaleta (WI4 5.10/M5 1600m) on Cerro Fitz Roy. The mountain was covered in crazy rime ice, with the top resembling the summit mushroom of Cerro Torre more than the usual rocky top of Fitz. It would be tools and crampons the whole way, exactly the type of route we were looking for in these cold conditions.

We rested and packed our bags the following day. Two ropes, 3 screws, a single set of gear, stove, and my proto two-man bivy sack. At around 6:00pm we started hiking up the Torre Glacier to the base of the snow leading up and over Sitting Man Ridge. We found great snow conditions which made this usually poor approach to the north aspect of Fitz Roy seem like a good choice. We descended the couloir on the other side of the ridge to the base of the route as it was getting dark. Hayden and I crawled into the two-man 'love sack' and brewed and rested until our 3:00am alarm.

The Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy!
Hayden near the start of the 1000m couloir, lots of calf burning to go.
The route starts with 1000m of ice up to AI3. We soloed together in the dark, our little worlds illuminated by the bubble of light from our headlamps. Surely this would be scarier in daylight, with thousands of feet of exposure beneath your legs.

We reached the top of the couloir and the start of the 22 pitches of mixed rock climbing just after daylight came upon us. The first pitch was one of the hardest of the day. Unconsolidated snow clogged the corner, making for hairy stemming in frontpoints, thin sticks in the icy crack, and good tool hooks on the righthand wall. I threw a couple gloved handjams in the crack above, plugged in a high cam, and dry tooled out right to a thin vertical ice smear which led to the top of the pitch. Hayden followed and ran the rope up to the base of the next pitch, a short vertical waterfall leading to a couple rope lengths of easy ice and thin goulottes (narrow ice runnels splitting rock). As I swung into the start of the pitch, I got really excited. We were sending Fitz Roy! I passed the next belay, yelled at Hayden to take me off, and went hypoxic swinging and kicking up the moderate ground as fast as I possibly could. The rope came tight on Hayden and I screamed down to him to start climbing. We simuled for a couple rope lengths and I stopped to belay on the righthand wall.

The start of the waterfall pitch.
From here, the route heads up and right linking amazing ice runnels and goulottes - perfect granite mixed climbing. Hayden took over the lead, and together we simulclimbed several pitches to the ridge. I dug my frontpoints in carefully and torqued my crampons into the cracks hard, making sure I was solid following behind Hayden without a belay.

Hayden linking amazing ice runnels.
Thumbs up on the ridge. Note amount of rime ice...
On the ridgeline proper we stopped simuling. The rock was heavily coated in rime ice, sometimes several feet thick. The climbing was still of very high quality, the rime making things just interesting enough without things ever getting too desperate. We did make some blunders though, the rime totally obscuring the easiest line in a few places, forcing Hayden up a particularly heinous pitch, which I followed free at around M7/8.

Rime, rime everywhere!
Really good granite mixed. Dreamboat.
Hayden loving it…
A tight fit.
This is where things started to fall apart. Lost in the rime, I tried to do battle with a particularly gnarly mushroom of overhanging snow on the ridgetop. With no way to get through and no options presenting themselves to us, we reversed the pitch, searching desperately for the line amongst the rime ice. My camera ran out of batteries… We spent about 6 hours climbing up and down, left and right, trying every conceivable variation to no avail. With no food or water left (we left our Jetboil stove at the base of the route), we had no choice but to bail, mere pitches from the end of the technical climbing and the summit of Cerro Fitz Roy!

Rappelling the route through the night was one of the more unpleasant things I have ever done, taking about 12 hours to reach our bivy at the base of the route. We brewed up and napped for a couple hours at the base, then shouldered our packs and hiked back around Sitting Man Ridge to our camp in the Torre Valley. We were completely choked. I honestly felt wronged by the mountain… Never before had such a cruiser mission turned into a total shut-down! Hayden and I vowed never to climb the stupid Supercanaleta ever again!

Back in town, Hayden was busy selling all his gear, he was due to fly back home to Colorado in a couple days. I was looking forward to wrapping up a couple undone bouldering projects and generally having a leisurely last week or so in town, maybe even fly up to Bariloche to hang out with some Argentine friends for a few days.

As luck would have it, the weather was about to get good, again...

Click here to go to Part Three