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: