Monday, May 20, 2013


13 years of trying, 13 years of failure, 13 years of doubt and 13 years of soul crushing defeat.

Bad day low was the reason I created the list of The 7 Terrors. It's the crown jewel in destruction of my climbing psyche. 

V4, 9 feet tall, one move into a V0, two rails that slash across a beautiful face and without a doubt my single longest running project. 

That is until today! 

Bad Day Low is my bail out plan, if I don't have anything going on and I don't want to go try one of my many super hard projects. I just throw Bad Day Low's name out as a possible destination and see if it lands. Today was similar. I hadn't been bouldering outside for the past week and felt like my skin was just barely useable. So while watching Luke try his project I mentioned I was going to give BDL a try. Fortunately my good friend Tim was game to head over and even more fortunately he was patient enough to not only wait around as I floundered but to encourage me when I was ready to quit trying for the day. 

I finally figured out a way to do the first move and managed to stick the hold once from the beginning only to have my left hand rip and spit me off. I didn't know how to feel. I was happy but worried I had never come that close to sending the problem. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to repeat move. But I calmed down and tried again from the beginning and this time I stuck the hold again and my left hand stayed and I climbed to the top with zero drama. My longest project is now happily put to bed. 

Sometimes when I send a problem I feel sad because I enjoyed working it so much that I know I'll miss trying it. However Bad Day Low isn't like that at all. I was so happy I almost screamed with joy as I topped out. Good bye Bad Day Low! I'll see you when I finally take down the Terrors. But first I must let the joy of this send sit inside of me for a while. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. : Albert Einstein 

Friday, September 7, 2012

New post about some old times

What up gang!

Sorry its been so long.

Been a bit busy. My wife and I had our first child. A little crusher named North.

He now boulders harder than me which is impressive and sad, seeing as he's only 4 months old and can campus my projects.

Anyways, I thought I'd come out of hibernation with a post about my first climbing experiences and all the fun mistakes I made in the beginning.

The reason I thought I'd write about this is I was having a conversation with a friend in my Tea Shop about funny things new climbers do. I was telling him how I was in a line up in a local cafe waiting for my sandwich when a guy walked in behind me wearing his harness with his climbing shoes clipped to them. I really wanted to take a photo but thought that would be awfully rude.

Anyways this conversation got me thinking about how I started and how I was a total noob (for the record I didn't know what a noob was until recently when I was called one by these guys in a database class).

I started climbing kind of different than other people, or at least I think it was different. I was treeplanting one summer just after high school when I met a guy named Dan Gable. We were all sitting around the drying tent one afternoon on a rest day. And like any camp job we were just passing time chatting and telling stories. Well I got it in my head that everyone has a special skill.

So Dan jumped up and said he could do a one finger pull up. I was unimpressed not knowing if this was difficult or not having never thought of such a thing before. Well he ran back to his tent and came back with a sling and wrapped it around one of the cross beams. He jammed his middle finger in and pulled a one finger one arm with no warm up. We all clapped and I asked if he had worked at this or what. He said he climbed and after a couple years of climbing he could do them. Well I stuck my finger in the sling and tried to hang from my finger with little chance of hanging let alone being able to pull. I was impressed. Everyone else tried and no one could hang from the sling.

My unique skill of being able to cover my nose with my tongue just got me pitying looks.

So a couple of weeks later Dan said he had found a place to boulder and invited us along on another rest day. So we all piled in to his beat up station wagon and went to see what climbing was all about. As we rolled into Slave Lake, Alberta I was waiting to pass through town and see the massive wall that we would scale. Instead we rolled up infront of the local bar. 

"I thought we were going bouldering?" I asked.

"We are and we're here." Dan said seeing the next question forming in my head.

Dan pulled out his chalk bag and climbing shoes and walked us around the side of the building. On the far side was a stone mason wall covered in cobble Stones. He then slapped on his shoes and traversed his way across. I wasn't impressed and stood watching while he went back and forth. After a while he came down and invited me to try. Well I grabbed a couple of the big cobbles, pulled my feet off the ground and stabbed at the next closest big cobble only to slip and land on my feet. 

"Well that's stupid" I said and walked around to the front of the bar and headed in for a beer.

Dan came and got me when it was time to leave and I stayed quiet on the ride back to camp. I didn't go with Dan on anymore of his day climbing trips which were back to bar or to a tree that Dan had nailed pieces of wood to.

That should of been the end of my climbing career. But I agreed to go to Lake O'Hare with a friend to see his girlfriend so we traveled by bus at the end of the planting season. While he was off spending time with his girlfriend I wandered around the lake. I came across some fairly large boulders and tried to scale them in my running shoes. It was a surprisingly good time and helped pass the time while my friend got reacquainted with his girlfriend.

After we left Lake O'Hare we head for Calgary where we visited the local MEC store. I walked over and talked to the guy infront of the climbing section. Telling him about my experience in Lake O'Hare he told me that buying climbing shoes would make the whole thing more enjoyable.

So under his wise advice I purchased the best shoes for a beginner. His words not mine. A bright red pair of hightop climbing boots. Ridged and two sizes two small. It would take me five minutes to pull them on and I could only wear them for about 30 seconds. But under the guys advice I soaked them in  water and walked around in them as long as my feet could handle. Then I placed tennis balls in them and put heavy books and rocks on them to help stretch them out over night.

I was pretty impressed with my climbing shoes and after seeing some other people at the MEC leave with their climbing shoes clipped to the side of their backpacks I copied this as well. I caught the next bus back to BC to visit my girlfriend in Victoria.

After getting to town I went to the local outdoor store and asked and if there was any climbing in the area. They directed me to a cliff on the side of a beach called Flemming Beach.

In Vancouver, before heading over to Victoria, I stopped at Valhalla Pure and bought a crashpad. It was the first Green "Flash" pad. This was before they were known as Flashed.

I went out for my first day of real rock climbing. I had climbing shoes and a crash pad. I felt like Columbus discovering the New World. Sure others had been here before but I was about to put my stamp on the climbing world.

A couple of things happened on my first day. One, I learned climbing shoes aren't the secret to being a good climber, and two, don't believe a sales clerk just because they work in a certian section doesn't mean they know anything about what they're selling.

Flemming beach was impressive. It was tall, it was long and had holds covered in chalk from one end to the other.

I set to work on the closest part of the wall to the parking lot, didn't want to miss an inch as I planned to scale the whole thing before the afternoon was over.

What I learned was climbing at Flemming beach was hard! And my feet were killing me. As I climbed a couple moves and fell off, a couple other climbers showed up. Man I was nervous.  In every other sport I've ever done people are a bit elitest. Playing basketball as a kid and into college kids that were new to the game were basically invisible to me. I understood quite quickly I was a punter. And these guys were good. Quite a bit better than me in fact.

As one of the climbers seemed to climb up and down and across the wall with grace and ease I could only dream of being able to accomplish such a feat. My fears of rejection were quite high. But a friendly smile and a hello were given when he looked my way.

After a little bit more struggling he came over and asked if I was new to Flemming.

I said yes and he offered to show me some problems that would be my speed.

After trying some of the problems I had a small taste of success. And I believe he was comfortable enough to ask me a few questions.

I told him I was new to climbing and in fact today was my first day of "real" rock climbing.

He asked about my shoes? What was the deciding factor in my purchase of my high top Free Climbing boots.

I said I just bought what the guy at the store told me to get.  Well he said it would be better to just take them back and return them for a more comfortable shoe and maybe something that wasn't high topped.

He also told me that the "Flash" pad I had bought was about four inches to thin to really be of any use for bouldering and that I may of been ripped off because he thought they probably poached the foam and sold me a single layer of closed foam.

I was a little despondent but psyched I'd made a climbing friend. I don't think I knew at the time that climbing would become a life long passion but that first day at Flemming Beach got me pysched, even if the other guy who showed up was some super old guy who told me I should spend the first few years just climbing slabs.

I ignored him... Might of not been bad advice in-retrospect.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Things overheard

As I was sitting in the climbing gym, a couple on their first date stopped in and supplied a couple gems.

"How many push-ups do you think I can do?"

"uhm... 60?"


Fails at 20. Girl doesn't looked impressed.

"Check this dyno out!"

Sideways dyno from standing on a ledge on the vertical wall to a huge jug on the 45 wall. Swings and faceplants.

"I used to play hockey."

"I thought hockey players were bigger."

Laugher from the peanut gallery.

"Here try this."

"I don't think that's possible."

"Let me show you."

"Told you so."

Same guy a couple days later showed up to the gym alone. Seeing two guys racing up the campus board, he proceeds to join in and with no warm up campuses half way up the boards and dryfires off, landing on his back and spraining his wrist.

Rough week for him.

"You look like a V5 climber."

Me "Thanks."

"I've only been climbing two years and I've already climbed a V5."


Some random customer in my store.

"Have you been doing steroids Smith?"

"It's called training, you should try it Sonnie."


"I did it fair means."

"Ya you climbed it and stripped the landing so the next guy couldn't use the landing you sent with."



"What's good about climbing outside?" "It's dangerous and there's no tape or grades."

Disappointed boulderer leaving Squamish for the last time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Somebody else commented so I'm writing another Blog Post

I have a little rule, that I'll write another blog if I get two comments. While somebody commented so now I'm left trying to come up with a post that won't have you clicking back before you finish this sentence.

It's the middle of March now. Like many of you I'm in the "Lets get this stupid winter over so we can climb outside phase." This year I've been climbing lots. To give you an idea I've actually climbed more days so far then I had last year at this time.

Thanks to the Squamish Bouldering Coop, (which happens to be 20 seconds from my work) I've been climbing 4 days a week.

Some of you believe that climbing is the best training for climbing, but I believe that climbing builds technic but I don't know if it helps build power. So that said I've been trying to increase that by power lifting four days a week.

Lets not get ahead of our selves thinking that I'm some goon pressing 600 pounds above my head. But I am working towards my body weight for most things. Or twice your weight you skinny bastard!


Anyways this year I'd like to crack the Bubbles V10.

Or get a couple Bubbles approved V10's and possibly a 11.

Now I know this seems a little like grade chasing but I'm just psyched on a couple problems.

The Reckoning Stand
Worm World Cave Low

I'll have to get the other 10's approved by the forest adjudicator.

So on that note. I spent this morning doing Wallballs and muscle ups.

Feel free to come by my shop to give me sympathy. Ask for something off the bottom shelf and watch me cry as I trying to bend over.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Fear and Loathing on my way to Vegas

Today is the five year anniversary of my most infamous drive from Hueco to Las Vegas.

Now before I get started I thought I talk about a little self reflection I've done over the years since this trip. In the past I've always pictured myself as Sal Paradise, Raoul Duke sort of character in all my adventures. But after reviewing my memories I might be more Neil Cassidy, Dr. Gonzo than I once thought.

To set the stage for this misadventure I have to introduce you to my best friend Gabriel. Gabriel is the kind of guy you meet at a party and you remember his name. Probably because he's lining up some sort of naked sauna roll in the snow.

I met Gabe in the Yukon when I borrowed a Tom Wolfe book from him after a random conversation. When I tried to return the book I found out that he was living in a tent behind the college. That's all well in good except it had dropped to minus 20 the night before. Tracking him down I found him showering in the public bathroom. He said he wanted to show me his tent. Turns out it was more of a tarp held up with a stick. After that Gabe moved into guest room at my parents house.

Fast forward ten years. Gabe was heading to go back from Mexico and knew I was in El Paso Texas.

Gabe emailed asking if he could get a ride to Vancouver if he bused in.

I had just spent 6 weeks having the best climbing trip of my life. I had climbed into shape and was cleaning up my projects left and right. Two days before I was planning to start the long journey back to Canada I drove out of the desert and met Gabe at the bus station. Gabe got off the bus with two friends. A Welsh guy and Gabe's new British sweetheart "Jimjam".

Surprised, I loaded them into the van to head back out into the desert. Before I had made two turns it became clear this travel arrangement was going to be a difficult one. Jimjam was tired from the 20 hour bus ride and wanted to stay in a hotel. Gabe pulled me aside and told me he was down to his last 50 bucks. And one night in the hotel would break him for the rest of the trip. He also told me his Welsh friend was worse off than him.

Feeling bad for my buddy I took them all out for all you can eat pizza. Gabe told me the trip had been good but his love interest was dragging down hard on him. He had got this rash on his privates and was worried it might be a sign of bigger problem. (I tell you this because this is the conversation we had in the lineup for pizza.) He said look man you have to look at this. It's bad and I'm not sure if I need to go to a doctor. So into the bathroom we went were he proceeded to whip it out.

(I'd like to stop here to clarify some things: One I'm not a doctor and know nothing about STD's, two it's not a hobby or passion of mine and three I don't recall really wanting to see this.)

Of course as Gabe is showing me his unholy sausage the door to the bathroom did open and yes someone did walk in. I kid you not. Needles to say I was doubly mortified. One for concerns of charges of indecent exposure or for soliciting sex and two for seeing something that is now burned into my memory for life.

(New rule: No more penis viewings for the remainder of the trip.)

That night Gab and Jimjam got a hotel while me and some random Welsh guy headed back into the desert to spend my last day in Hueco climbing.

I had my single greatest climbing day of my life that day while Gabe and Jimjam wandered the streets of El Paso passing the time until we got back. Needless to say they weren't psyched when we finally got back from climbing for the day. They had to be forced to leave their hotel at 11 and spent the remainder of the day walking the streets hungry. Gabe had spent the last of his money on a hotel and couldn't afford to go to Denny's for a Grand Slam.

When we met them, I shared a couple of my peanut butter sandwiches. My plan was to drive to Bishop with a stop in Las Vegas. I hit the gas station Gabe informed me that Jimjam was having a problem with her bladder and had to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. I was a bit concerned. I mean that can't work. We're about to do a 12 hour straight drive.

I wasn't psyched. I was of the mind set that every time we stopped for gas, then we could use the bathroom. But I'm not completely heartless. In Gabes pre-trip conference he also informed me that Jimjam tended to get carsick and needed to sit up front.

Ok ok. Easy. Right?

So we filled up and headed out. We had been in the van for ten minutes when Jimjam stated.

"Garybell I have to go to the bathroom."

I mean I was sitting right beside her, no more than two feet away. I thought she was joking. Gabe tapped me on the shoulder from behind.

"Ah guy we needs to stop."

Now I'm not a jerk but two things started to bother me. One, we hadn't been in the van for more 15 minutes and two, why was she has holding a four liter water jug.

As we swung into a gas station on the edge of town, Jimjam ran in to relieve herself. I questioned the logic of this trip. I'm like "Gabe why don't you guys fly". He of course was like "Dude, I don't have anything left".

So five minutes later we were back on the road. As I step on it to get out of town as quickly as possible I begun to notice something troubling. Jimjam wasn't speaking to me directly. It always:

"Garybell, I don't like the music."
"Garybell, I'm cold."
"Garybell, It's too warm in here."
"Garybell, I have to go pee pee."
"Garybell, we're driving too fast."
"Garybell, how much longer."
"Garybell, can't we talk about something else."
"Garybell, I'm thirsty."

One hour into the drive I was at wits end. As we pulled over for our third bathroom break. I decided new rules:

Jimjam sits in the back of the van.
Jimjam is advised to shut up.
Jimjam is advised to cut back on the water.
Oh and Jimjam is strongly advised to shut up.

6 hours in 12 bathroom breaks.

New rule: At least two hours between bathroom breaks.

My eye twitched every time Jimjam broke one of the many rules of road. I'm normally quite sane but this was testing my limits.

"Garybell why can't I sit up front? I like to look at the license plates?"
"Garybell can you get Matthew to play something that isn't so dreary?"
"Garybell I have to go wee."

I knew we weren't going to make it to Las Vegas in a single push. I was on the edge of madness. I pulled into a gas station/rest stop and said we were crashing for the night.

I had a double bed in the back of my van and I planned on sleeping for a few hours and making my way to Vegas the next day.

Now normally I'm a nice guy. "Of course you can sleep in the back... Of course we can turn the heat on... Of course you can have my sleeping bag. But in the last 8 hours she had broken me. I was a stark raving mad man. It may not show on the outside but I was ready to snap.

Gabe and Jimjam were going to sleep up front, me and the random Welsh guy were in the back. Welsh guy could sleep across my feet. Gabe was informed if Jimjam complained she could sleep outside.

When I woke up in the morning the van was empty. When I entered the gas station I found Gabe and Jimjam sitting at a table drinking a hot coco. Gabe had found change sitting on the dashboard and got them a hot drink. Gabe pulled me aside and said that last night was the hardest night of his life. Worst than any of the nights in the tent in the Yukon. He thought they were going to die and that I might sleep through his death.

I felt bad. Gabe was my boy. If he died if would have been terrible. I said "Why didn't he climb in the back and cuddle up?"

Apparently Jimjam asked that very thing.

"Garybell I'm freezing can we trade with them?"

Some one told her:

"Isn't it time for a bathroom break!"

And not in a Welsh ascent...

The next day was much of the same driving. Pulling over and constant whining.

I was forming a plan in my mind as we drove. It won't be written here for legal reasons. My Dr. Gonzo was emerging. Instead of acting like a crazed father with a mini van full of kids, I'd gone to the dark side. After all we were driving through bat country.

We stopped in on the Grand Canyon as we neared Vegas. Sadly Jimjam never got see it. What with bathroom breaks and problems with her camera we left before she made it to the edge.

I'm not one for sightseeing and neither was Jimjam judging by the speed in which she moved once we got there.

Next up the Hoover Dam! With me being the only one with any money to their name, I decided not to pay for parking and rather slowed down to peer out the side of the window.

"Garybell why aren't we stopping?"


Gabriel is my best friend, hell he was the best man at my wedding and for that reason I didn't drive off on one of our many pit stops on the way to Vegas. But I knew as we neared Vegas it was the end of the line. Jimjam had to go. I still had a few days to go in my trip and I planned to spend a week climbing in Bishop. I had no doubts that Jimjam wouldn't be able to handle sleeping in the desert.

The plan was simple. I'd fit the bill for a hotel in Vegas. Then before dawn broke I'd head to Bishop solo.

I think my plan showed on my face. As I paid the hotel bill the Welsh guy said quietly.

"Can I come too?"

Taking a random stranger over your best friend is quite tough. I knew I couldn't leave without saying something, so while Jimjam was heading to the bathroom. I told Gabe "You can come to Bishop. " He smiled relief on his face. "But she can't. Your choice."

In the end Gabe made the choice that proved he's a great guy. He called his mom and she wired enough cash and he and Jimjam flew back to Vancouver.

Welsh guy and I headed off.

In a way I was Sal Paradise when Dean needed a ride. I just wasn't going in the right direction.
But then again Dr. Gonzo knew the true score. She was one toke over the line.