September 23, 2013

Souvenirs Episode 1

For many of us growing up in the Upper Snake River Valley, Heise Rock was the crag where we learned to rock climb. Thanks to Chuck Odette and others during the late 1980's and early 1990's, this rhyolite block has been one of the most popular sport climbing crags for over two decades.
As a young teenager growing up in Idaho Falls and passionate about rock climbing, I was able to witness the enthusiasm of this budding sport crag. It came with excitement and controversy and even some spicy history of bolt chopping.
Chuck Odette kindly took me under his wing, mentored me - taught me how to move on stone. As our friendship developed, so did the opportunity to learn about bolting routes and projecting hard rock climbs. In many ways, Chuck and Heise Rock paved the way for my interest in exploring what i'm capable of achieving in a vertical world.
As for the video edit itself, Heather shot most of the footage and I pieced together the edit. Neither of us have any formal, or informal training on such things, so please don't judge the quality of the edit to harshly! 

August 24, 2013

The Portal

Heather Lords climbing Jigawatt at the Portal
 We've added four new routes to Pass Creek at a small sector dubbed the Portal. This wall is above the natural tunnel on the east side just before leaving the gorge as you drive up Pass Creek. I've started a new page here on the blog called Pass Creek Canyon where I will host what information I know about the existing climbs in the canyon as well as share beta for new development as it continues. Check the page from time to time if you are interested in what the place has to offer.
Getting through the thin opening crux of Troll Bride
 The routes at the Portal are quite different in style to the routes i'm use to developing. Instead of the typical overhanging terrain I am passionate about, the Portal is much more strait up and down. Despite not being my favored style, the routes offer some enjoyable technical climbing in a very cool location. I am finding motivation and excitement in adding more climbs to the current offering in Pass Creek even though they are kinda slabby!
Blue streaks and sinker pockets on the start of Deja Vu

Getting cruxy on Jigawatt
 There are a number of other small sectors I've looked at that should produce more fun moderately difficult climbs. Most of the towering limestone walls in Pass Creek are rotten and crumbly, but small pockets of good stone will yield worthwhile climbing. And perhaps with more exploration, I might find an area that fits my favored style of climbing. Let's keep our fingers crossed!
Eye dropping scenery while Heather climbs Troll Bride

August 18, 2013

Pass the Potential, Please

Heather amongst towering walls in Pass Creek

Have you ever dreamt of a place where limestone walls tower high above a meandering stream and forested valley floor? A place with roadside cragging, free camping, and where potential for new rock routes exist, both single and muli-pitch? Perhaps somewhere remote and off the grid for most climbers; located in a part of the world close to home with friendly locals and a mild climate most summer seasons?

It just may be that you have dreamt about a little known canyon in central Idaho called Pass Creek. Now before you jump into your Subaru with a mountain of stainless steel hardware and freshly charged batteries, or enough psych and food to stay for a month of cragging and projecting on already established routes, there are some things you might want to know about Pass Creek Canyon.
Short and Savage in the Pass Creek Canyon

 Pass Creek Canyon - Lost River Range, Idaho 

Looking South down Pass Creek Canyon
Located between Arco and Mackay, Idaho just off of Highway 93 is Pass Creek. This mountain stream cuts a deep limestone canyon as if flows south into the Big Lost River Valley. The Pass Creek Road connects the Big Lost River Valley to the Little Lost River Valley as it bisects the central portion of the Lost River Range.

Home to Idaho's highest summit, Borah Peak and a couple of small but high quality crags know as The Fins, Cedar Creek, and Bear Creek; the Lost River Range isn't a complete unknown destination for most local climbers and mountain enthusiasts. Even Pass Creek itself is known for having seen some rock climbing development over the years. Despite falling off the radar as a potential rock climbing destination, the location itself hasn't faded from the minds of locals climbers.
Heather starting up a route at Grey Slab Sector
Local Hailey, Idaho climbers Dave Bingham and Marc Hanselman are accredited for the first known wave of sport climbing development nearly fifteen years ago. Their efforts produced a handful of routes spread throughout the canyon but the rotten nature of the stone kept development to a minimum. Soon enough, motivation for development at Pass Creek faded with the discovery of better stone in Box Canyon on the southern end of the Lemhi Range and eventually the Fins on the southern tip of the Lost River Range.

The Present

At present, Pass Creek Canyon holds less than a dozen sport routes. This might be the point in my story where you question reading any further! But, I assure you, I will present a good case.

Heather Lords climbing Troll Bride on the Portal Wall. This route was the first in a recent flurry of development by Dean and Heather Lords
The established routes range from fun slab to savagely powerful overhangs and are anywhere from 3 bolts sport rigs to two pitch Box Canyon style experiences. Typical to most central Idaho limestone, much of the climbing is on highly textured rock that can be rather sharp at times. With that being said, the routes are varied in style and angle with the majority being vertical with bulgy sections and steep slabs.

There isn't a guide or published information about the climbs in Pass Creek. As routes get added to the canyon, more information will become available. In the meantime, if you're really keen on checking this place out, embrace the adventure of hunting for and climbing the routes sans beta. And if you really want to know more about route location and grades, please contact me, i'm happy to share what I know.

The Future

Heather warming up on Hornet at the Portal Wall
With enough interest and patience to wander the canyon in search of good sections of stone, Pass Creek could become an enjoyable cragging destination for climbers looking to escape the desert feel of Box Canyon or forgo the summer heat and crowds at the City of Rocks for weekend trips. Like the City of Rocks or Box Canyon, the climbing is spread out amongst various features making for a "tour" style destination. And once a larger number of routes get developed it will be a great place to just go cragging.

Having only spent a short amount of time in the canyon, it is unclear to me whether Pass Creek will host a multitude of hard sport climbs or if it will be a location for easy and moderate sport climbs. As of right now, I feel the latter is more in line with the nature of the canyon.
Excellent steep stone on Deja Vu at the Portal Wall
Pass Creek will over time become an option for climbers looking to escape the normal routine of summer destinations in Idaho. It is unlikely Pass Creek will become a destination for high quality limestone climbing, but if the current routes are any indication as to what the future of Pass Creek will be, I suspect over time with the addition of more routes, we will have another great venue for climbing.

August 07, 2013

Walking the Margin

Margin Walker - the Arcane Crag, Idaho
Why is volcanic choss so fun? It's dangerous, dirty, and often undesirable for a number of various other reasons. With a growing concentration of high quality routes on world class limestone at a nearby crag known as the Fins and the even more amazing and obscure granitic stone in Teton Canyon, why would I even consider devoting so much time, effort, and money to miles upon miles of endless basalt in the upper Snake River Valley? For me, that answer is simple... variety of angle and STEEP, unique climbing.

For many years I've plugged away at various basalt sectors along with Matt TeNgiao and Tom Smartt near my home along the South Fork of the Snake River and further south in Meadow Creek and the Blackfoot River Canyon. These areas now offer several sectors each, host a multitude of routes from 5.6 to 5.13, and provide our local upper valley climbing community with it's own basalt climbing scene - if there is such a thing as a scene around here!

The Arcane Crag

My most recent focus has been a small and remote overhanging section of rim-rock basalt deep in the South Fork Canyon of the Snake River. The climbing is outrageously steep with enjoyable movement. The stone however, has sections of the most suspect stone I've equipped; an experimental crag if you will. And if any crag needs the disclaimer of "CLIMB AT YOUR OWN RISK", it would be the Arcane. It is quite scenic though!

The routes are quite unique and steep with the majority of them being moderately hard to hard. I've refrained from assigning grades to the routes as I don't want the crag to be about numbers.

Margin Walker

Known in the most elite of climbing circles, Ty Mack maintains a low-key and somewhat under the radar status. He is, without out a doubt, one of the strongest climbers living in Eastern Idaho and his 5.14 traditional route, The Almighty, in Teton Canyon has seen some recent publicity from visiting climber, Jonathan Siegrist. Ty has taken a liking to some of my basalt efforts; enjoying the steeper sectors, which is the missing style at some of the other, high quality crags in our area.

Margin Walker - the Arcane Crag, Idaho
Ty and I spent the afternoon at the Arcane Crag where he easily flashed Proboscis, Naiad, and Esoteric. With the excitement of a little kid, Ty let out a "Weeee, that was soooo fun! I got really pumped." as I lowered him from the anchors of Esoteric!

His excitement put to rest any doubts in my head that he might not be psyched on the new crag. Esoteric is the king line at the crag, overhanging the entire route, with a long section of steep headwall at the top. The flash is a highly prized effort in my opinion.

We moved onto the upper ledge where my last remaining unsent project started. Margin Walker is the steepest line at the crag, with some near-horizontal climbing at the start to a bouldery section mid route, followed by big moves and big pump to the anchors. I squeaked out a one-hang attempt before leaving for the Outdoor Retailer show in SLC. I felt ill-prepared for the send after a long week of sitting around the OR Show, no climbing, followed by a focused cragging session just 24 hours earlier.

Knowing there was a chance Ty could send the route during our session, I fought like hell on my attempt, pushing the high point closer to the anchors before falling off. Big cheers and a noticeable increase of psych filled the cave. I was super excited too about the progress, despite not feeling super fresh.

Now, this is where you get a glimpse of Ty's stalwart nature. As he tied in, he looked me in the eyes and said:

"I know this is your project and if by some chance I get to the anchors, I'll fall off."

This sort of respect is somewhat fading amongst climbers nowadays. I told Ty when you get to the anchors... you better clip 'em!

Ty walked the lower half of the route but got crossed up at the crux and wasn't able to correct the sequence before dropping into space. It was a good fight and again bumped up the level of psych to try and send the route.

We both rested and watched Heather, Joe, and Chelsea fight on Proboscis and Naiad. Heather made good progress getting Naiad down to just one hang. Ty and I talked about climbing, traveling, friends and the excitement of this new choss sector. Yet in the back of my mind I was desperately trying to suppress the reality of tender and raw fingertips and a wicked pump that wasn't going away.

After a long rest, I grabbed my climbing shoes and sheepishly admitted to Ty that I'll give it a go, but I didn't have the skin or the power to make it happen, so he should feel good about getting the FA on his go. Tying into the rope left my hands stinging from the pressure of just pulling the knot tight and the first few moves were more awkward and desperate feeling than ever. I managed the big moves across the roof and set up for the start of the bouldery crux. With no anticipation of actually hanging on to any of the holds and having red lined the power reserves just getting off the ground, I found myself climbing in the moment, screaming, breathing, screaming, moving, and more screaming; disconnected from the pain of tender skin and a pump as I desperately wrestled with each move.

"COME ON... JUST GET THE ROPE INTO ONE OF THE ANCHOR BINERS...." I screamed to myself inside my head as my left hand was slowly and uncontrollably opening up on the biggest jug of the entire route while pulling up rope to clip the anchors. The rope dropped in at the exact same time the remaining strength disappeared from my left arm...... SAFE! The fight was ugly, but I got it done!

Next up, Ty passed his high point, stuck the final moves on the bouldery section mid route and then powered out on the long move right after the crux, dropping off the route. He boinked his way back to the high point, worked out some beta for the next few bolts, adding a sweet knee-bar, and getting some other foot sequences dialed. I'm confident it'll go easily for him next time!

Choss is, and always will be choss. Whether you're projecting 5.14 or 5.9, climbing on stone carved by heavenly angles, or wrestling with the chossy leftovers; at the end of the day, climbing is, and always will be climbing.

Climb on!
Heather warming up on Bitty

July 28, 2013

Spotlight - Heather Lords

My latest video edit is of Heather after a few working sessions on Naiad at the Arcane Crag. She is climbing strong this summer and the new routes at the Arcane seem to inspire her to try hard. We've had a lot of fun at the new crag and both have a number of projects that we find enjoyable to work on.

Naiad is a unique route with three different style sections offering delicate finesse, power bouldering, and a steep headwall at the top. The crux for most comes at the very end of the route.

Enjoy the edit!

July 18, 2013

Maximum Psych

Margin Walker - Arcane Crag
I think the time has come to put the drill down and go climbing! There are a few more routes to be added at the Arcane, but they can wait. The desire to start trying hard on these rigs has reached a maximum level of psych!

There is a full listing of routes and Arcane Crag beta in the menu bar at the top of the blog page. Check it out! The two routes that exemplify this crag for me are Esoteric and Margin Walker. Both routes provide what I most enjoy about sport climbing - steep sequential powerful climbing. I also think Naiad and Proboscis will be favorites given the wild and varied climbing on either route.

Heather cruxing on Proboscis
All of the routes will take some time and traffic to clean up so expect the standard new choss route experience when you visit the crag. Bring a brush and share some love. Be careful and enjoy the hard work getting these routes put in!

Climb on!

July 10, 2013

Video Edit - Esoteric

The Arcane from Dean Lords on Vimeo.
The art of making videos is not my forte. However, Heather and I put the drill down for an afternoon and shot some footage with Jaren Watson at the Arcane. We enjoyed trying hard on our first real attempt at sending a few of the rigs.
The climbing is spectacular with powerful and somewhat cryptic sequences on all manner of holds and steep angles. It is obvious to us that the Esoteric is going to be the must do line at Arcane. And, I might just be bold enough to say that Esoteric has been my best creation anywhere in the last twenty years. The route is the style I'm most passionate about; long, steep with big moves, and a good combination of physical and technical skills are needed. It may not be the most difficult climb at the crag, or of my route developing efforts over the years, but it surely is as close to heaven as a chossy cliff has provided for my new routing habit! 
Like any smart route developer, I too dream of clean and featured stone of ideal angle and difficulties to develop into the next mega crag, but I haven't been dealt those cards. Instead I am left with the creative nature of volcanic basalt; to which, the Arcane will deliver a handful of worthy climbs in the region.
I hope you enjoy my attempt at making a short climbing video edit!