September 20, 2012

On July 17, I returned from a blissful basecamp in the Cordillera Blanca to the bustling city of Los Angeles with a serious case of vertigo, gut rot and culture shock like I’ve never experienced before. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt the ground sink below me and the horizon shift and move away. All I wanted was a hot shower, a toilet I could sit on, and a warm, comfortable bed, but the California I dreamed of turned out to be a lot harsher in reality. Hot, dizzy, nauseous and disturbed by growling ghetto birds and ringing cell phones, I immediately took off to Palm Springs to connect with friends, soak in a salt water pool and relax under a cool mist. While this plan sounded rejuvenating in theory, the stifling heat, pungent aroma of burning flesh and bananas, and my black rubber flip flops melting onto the 200 degree concrete sidewalks rendered me speechless. Sick and strained between the two realities, I couldn’t eat, drive or express a complete thought. I had grown accustomed to the simple and secluded basecamp life and was seriously affected by the differences between the old and new. I never expected the transition from extreme high altitude isolation to sea level civilization was going to be this difficult and awkward.

It took a few weeks for my culture shock and oxygen induced delirium to disappear.  However, while staring at the glowing red eyes of the car stopped before me in LA’s bumper to bumper traffic, I often daydream about the glitter of sunlight on frosted nylon tent walls. The heavenly smell of sweet mountain air. The taste of fresh Peruvian dark roast coffee made with glacial-fed water. The innocence of morning. The feeling of immaculate granite on my fingertips and warm sunshine on my chapped face. The sounds of laughter illuminated by dancing candle flames. The dazzling gold Milky Way arching over the glowing white peaks. The Cordillera Blanca was beyond my wildest imagination. I feel so fortunate to have experienced the life-altering influences of the majestic Peruvian Andes.

The last two months have passed by in a feathery blur. I have been traveling non-stop from the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City to the Monterey Historics and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to a climbing/paddle boarding/camping trip with Marmot and REI in Lake Tahoe to the Goodwood Revival historic race in England. During my three weeks of downtime in LA, I’ve taken advantage of the granite bouldering at Black Mountain and surfing in So Cal’s warm water.

Even though I’m now working on my laptop five days per week instead of climbing all day, I’m incredibly inspired by my current projects. Next week, I will travel back to Boulder, Colorado for the 2012 Adventure Film Festival. It’s a great honor to be the Producer of this year’s festival, founded by my dear friend, the late, great Jonny Copp. It’s incredibly rewarding to collaborate with our industry’s most talented filmmakers, photographers, athletes, artists and the inspired community who helps to carry on Jonny’s vision: Make Your Own Legends. If you’re in Boulder on October 4-6, don’t miss this magical weekend with over 40 outdoor adventure films, filmmaker and photographer workshops, interactive art gallery, live performances, parties and more.

Also, look for the complete story and videos about our high alpine Peruvian adventure, coming soon!

July 28, 2012

Photo by Paige Claassen

As I step through Lima’s airport terminal gateway I enter a parallel universe.  A dreamscape I made, control and manipulate like a lucid dream. In this in-between world, more real than my actuality, I never stand still. The surface of the planes constantly shift and expand, opening avenues for discovery.

Fully awake in the present moment, my friends and I voyage to the White Mountain Range to build our village of nylon domes above 15,000 feet. In this isolated ecosystem, there are magnificent mountains, giant granite boulders, turquoise lakes, vibrant wild flowers, and kindhearted Peruvians assisting our journey.

We continually play the timeless climbing game to experience the phenomenal magic. Weightless sensations break the bonds of physics. Fantasy becomes reality. Everything is controlled by what we believe. Surrender to the clarity and find wholeness. Concepts of time, language and reality fade. Emerge with the sun to live in the glorious light of day. Drop deeper into the infinite starry night. Past, present and future is wrapped in universal history.

This dream can’t last forever. We win the battle of fear and find the truth. Nearing the gateway, the inter-dimensional tug between realities intensifies. And then I wake up. A stranger in a strange land.

June 13, 2012

Nine hour flight from Los Angeles to Houston to Lima. Ten hour bus ride from the capital city to Huaraz along the rocky coastline, through a dry, sandy desert to the bustling mountain town at 10,000 feet encapsulated by majestic snow-capped peaks. Four days of acclimatization and organization. One day of bouldering on gorgeous granite at 11,500 feet. Eight Pisco Sours. Twelve cups of strong, dark, locally brewed Cafe Andino coffee. Over one month of shipping hassles, and we finally have all our gear and ready for the mountains. Tomorrow, June 14, Pete Takeda, Paige Claassen, Mick Follari, Andy Mann, Alex Gilbert and I will depart for our 30 day climbing adventure in the Cordillera Blanca.   Follow our journey on Facebook at The Incan Odyssey. Wish us luck!

May 27, 2012

Home to rugged, snow capped peaks, superior swells, arid coastal deserts, tropical rainforests, ancient ruins and Pisco Sours, Peru seems to be the whole world complete. But are there world-class boulders to climb in the Cordillera Blanca? On June 8, I’m going to find out.

Together with my Marmot teammates Pete Takeda and Paige Claassen, alpinist/photographer Mick Follari, Marmot’s Athlete & Events Manager Alex Gilbert and photographer/filmmaker Andy Mann, we will attempt to develop unclimbed granite boulders and alpine routes for 30 days from a base camp above 4000 meters. The satellite imagery and mountaineering journals show more rock than we can handle, but lacks the clarity for scouting specific features and quality. That’s the gamble…and the adventure.

Since I now live near sea level I’ve been bouldering above 8,000 feet at Black Mountain and Tramway near Palm Springs to get into alpine climbing shape. These premiere areas host high-quality granite boulders with a wide variety of grades, angles and heights and rigorous hiking. To strengthen my weaknesses and improve overall performance, I’ve been grip training on the Iron Palm hangboard, hiking hills in Griffith Park, attending grueling pilates classes at The Sweat Spot and practicing at Urth Yoga in Silver Lake. To be ready to go in less than two weeks is going to be a mad dash. I can’t wait to leave my laptop at home, transport to a new and exotic landscape, live in the mountains, and let my imagination go wild as I climb new and exciting rock features.

 

April 29, 2012

I never thought I’d love living in a big city. Teeming with over 9 million people in 4,083 square miles of metropolis, flatlands, hills, beaches, mountains and desert, LA County’s radical diversity affords spontaneous surprises daily. From 24-hour doughnut shops to healthy gourmet organic food trucks, mind-blowing art exhibits, easily accessible hiking trails, year-round farmer’s markets, motor racing events, vintage to high fashion shops, and world-class granite bouldering with two hours, LA has it all. Sure, at times there’s heavy smog, aggravating traffic, lingering lines and astronomical gas prices, but there’s always a way to escape the chaos, whether it be yoga at sunrise, bouldering at Black Mountain, or hiking high above the city in Griffith Park. Energized by the extreme variations of culture, climate, cuisine, architecture, economics, technology and environment, I’m more alert, creative and active than ever. And great things are happening. As Fiat heir Lapo Elkann once said:

“A creative is ultimately a person of action. They have dreams, but they toil. A dreamer is someone who never achieves a dream. Dreamers are bullshit.”

So before June Gloom strikes, I’m disconnecting from the city life to go on another high alpine bouldering adventure that I never imagined would happen this year. The official announcement coming soon!




March 20, 2012

On March 18, I turned 29 years old. Just one month ago, I moved away from my home for the first time to start the next chapter of my life in Los Angeles. I had a place to live in Hollywood Hills with my friend Alex King, but I didn’t have a plan and didn’t really had no idea what to expect. I’m not the type of person that extensively studies an area before going. I typically research just enough to get me there and then fully commit and trust my intuition. I admit my method is a bit reckless, but I enjoy the mystery and the discovery uninhibited by preconceived notions and expectations. Living in LA, everyday is a new adventure!

PhotobucketThe last month has flown by with the blink of an eye. One week after I moved into my new place I flew to El Paso, Texas to attend the 19th annual Hueco Rock Rodeo as a representative of the American Alpine Club and Wagon Wheel guide during the competition. The echos of 165 climbers from all over the world encouraging each other up the boulders was incredibly invigorating. I was fortunate to lead an entertaining group that included the Masters category champs Bobbi Bensman and Ty Foose to classic and obscure problems all over east mountain. Off the clock, I spent every moment I could in the park, touring around with my good friends, repeating the classics, climbing new lines and attempting the gems that have captured my heart.

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I feel a little melancholy now that the winter Hueco season is over and also feverish about about all the new climbing that surrounds me in So Cal. As soon as I returned, my friend and climbing partner Jeff Constine introduced me to the local bouldering at Purple Stones and Horse Flats. I’m pleasantly surprised by the variety of climbing here. There are tall friction slabs, compression aretes, steep Hueco-like roofs, challenging mantles, interesting chicken heads, curvy flakes and splitter cracks. And there’s still so much I haven’t seen. Next up: Bishop, Joshua Tree and Black Mountain!

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February 24, 2012

For months, I’ve had a reoccurring nightmare in which I’m a small ball of snow hurdling down a steep, icy slope into a dark abyss. I desperately grasp for the comforts in life, but they are illusions, projections, fears. When I let go, I shed the loose fragments of my existence, absorb power and pick up momentum from the friction. When it all goes black I wake up in a panic. Disoriented, but with a clear vision.

After bouldering in Hueco Tanks for three weeks during the Thanksgiving holiday, I returned to Colorado and the tides changed. The series of images and sensations that occurred in my mind during sleep were beginning to manifest in the real world and disrupted my equilibrium. It was scary, uncomfortable, and not always exactly how I imagined. Unable to resist, I let go like in my dream, and then everything started to fall into place.

The turn of the New Year brought many unexpected and exciting surprises. In mid-January I took a week-long what-the-f**k-am-I-doing-with-my-life road trip to Hueco Tanks and climbed for five days straight until my hands were so shredded and swollen that I could barely make a fist. Two days later, as if a heavenly intervention, I got the opportunity to coordinate the first casting call for the new mountaineering horror film Hidden Mountain, from the producers of The Road, Requiem for a Dream, and co-executive producers of Tree of Life. That same week, I landed a place to live in Los Angeles with my friend Alex King and moved to Hollywood Hills the following Friday.

In only a few days, I’ve already unearthed all the essentials: a route climbing, bouldering and beach circuit that I can complete before noon; sunrise yoga in Silver Lake at Urth Yoga; sunset hikes at Griffith Park, and mussels and frites at the neighborhood French Bistro La Poubelle. It’s a dream come true! Before I get too settled, I’m going back to Hueco Tanks next week to represent the American Alpine Club at the 19th annual Hueco Rock Rodeo. While I’m there I hope to finish a few climbs I left behind last time and then I’m excited to explore my new terrain!

Check back soon for more!

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December 3, 2011

“There’s a beast in these woods.
It is a growling, snarling, gnashing creature called complacency.
He is hungry, aggressive, and without remorse. The beast strikes without warning.
And you and me? We are the rabbit.”

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While sitting in the sold out Boulder Theater watching Jeremy Collins’s provocative performance of the “Wolf and the Medallion” at the Adventure Film Festival, it dawned on me. The wolf had captured me. I had become comfortable working in overdrive and living as a hermit in Eldorado Springs. I found satisfaction in my work, but lost touch with what makes me happy and stopped taking risks. Restless, introverted and uninspired, I needed to step out of my comfort zone. Two days later, I hit the road…

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On November 8, I arrived in Santa Rosa, California to spend the week with my Marmot family in their hometown. I toured the Marmot headquarters, climbed with the junior team at Vertex Climbing Center, showed the Zanskar Odyssey at the family-owned gear shop Sonoma Outfitters, and presented a collection of short films to an audience of 250 teenagers at Sonoma Academy. Public speaking usually makes me quiver with terror, but I really enjoyed sharing stories about my passion for climbing, traveling and writing with new friends. I ended the week with my buddy Stephen Smith at a rowdy harvest dinner of farm-raised pork carnitas and fine wine at Hudson Ranch in Napa, and then traveled to Bay area on the back of a BMW motorcycle for my next adventure…

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A high speed karting competition at Infineon Raceway against Louisiana’s pro bull rider DJ Domangue and Whistler-based skier Dana Flahr.

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All new to motor racing, but familiar with dangerous, adrenaline sports, we were all excited to see how our skills would respond on the track.

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When the visors went down, it got serious. DJ drove full throttle with the fierce aggression to win and Dana increased his speed with each lap as he discovered the racing line.
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I drove last. As if I wasn’t intimidated enough, minutes before my session, I climbed into the kart to discover that my feet were six inches away from reaching the pedals. Even though I’m probably more suited for a kid’s kart, I was given an additional bucket seat and pedal blocks to shorten my reach. The set-up felt solid in idle, but as I braked into the first corner I spun out as my pedal block loosened and shifted downward out of reach. Instead of pulling off to fix the pedals, I continued to drive, barely tapping the breaks. It was unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.

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By the end of the day, I loosened my grip and felt the magical flow similar to what I find while climbing and snowboarding — the blissful moment where my mind and body are in synch and weightless. Absolutely brilliant.

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The following day, I returned to Colorado. As soon as I arrived in Eldorado Springs, I felt the cold hand of winter knocking at my door. Fearful of forced containment and starving to climb, I immediately packed my car and drove 10 hours south to Hueco Tanks in El Paso, Texas. Greeted by good friends, clear blue skies, pleasant 70 degree temps and my favorite boulders in the US, I knew I made the right decision. I arrived just in time for my friend Ty Foose’s annual birthday challenge of terrifying highballs above deadly landing zones — a perfect way to get my head in check and find my balance. It always takes me a few weeks to build the fitness, power and pain tolerance to climb on Hueco’s steep angles, so I’ve spent my time repeating classics and trying out new problems with inspiring movement.

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This isolated island of cratered rock is my whole world complete — warm sunshine, world-class bouldering, good friends, and untroubled peacefulness. But as I get comfortable, I feel the wolf breathing down my neck again and keep moving toward making my wildest dreams come true…

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October 26, 2011

For the last two months I’ve been on an exhilarating thrill ride from one social event to the next slideshow presentation and through the full rigor of several writing and film projects. Here are my last summer highlights:

Mission accomplished: In mid-August, one year after Jason Kehl, Pete Takeda, Mick Follari and I departed for the Indian Himalayas, we released the final full-length Zanskar Odyssey film. From the inception to the execution to the post-production storytelling, it’s been a life-changing experience with exceptionally creative and talented partners. I’m looking forward to sharing the Zanskar Odyssey at the seventh annual Adventure Film Festival premiere at the Boulder Theater on November 5 and at Sonoma Outfitters on November 10.

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On September 8, Lynn Hill and I got a chance to tell our stories about climbing in Eldorado Springs at the 20th Anniversary of the Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE) at Neptune Mountaineering. It was a great honor to celebrate one of my favorite climbing areas with over 200 passionate climbers, including the legends Layton Kor, Pat Ament, Alec Sharp, Jim Erikson, and many others.

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For the first time in my life, I was a bridesmaid in wedding. The cake tasting, dress shopping, wedding shower barbecue, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception were all memorable occasions shared by close friends and family in honor of the beloved Cory and Olivia Hsu-Richards.

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Even though my days climbing in Colorado’s high alpine were few and far between, they were all quality.

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Out of my love for fashion and concern for the planet, I spent six weeks producing the Green Runway fashion show that benefitted New Era Colorado and their dedication to voter registration. Young, ambitious, savvy and most of all fun, this non-profit organization has been rallying to raise awareness and community engagement to take control of Boulder’s energy future. Inspired by the annual Telluride AIDS Benefit, the Director Katy Parnello and Choreographer Amanda Sturdavent brought their high level of production and creativity to Boulder, training more than two dozen local and Telluride models for over 100 hours for the premiere theatrical fashion show on September 30 at the Boulder Theater.

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The day after the Green Runway fashion show, I flew to Los Angeles for an action-packed week with my friend and partner Alex King, writing about Formula One cars, playing dodge ball, watching films, and eating lots of yummy food.

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Since mid-October I’ve been back in Eldorado Springs, enjoying the bouldering in my front yard, writing and editing non-stop, building the hype for the upcoming Adventure Film Festival, and getting really excited for another season of climbing and guiding in Hueco Tanks.