Getting older, getting weak, getting strong again – My Birthday Challenge Recap

Sometimes, the passage of time is a good thing – you become wiser, you get your shi*t together, and you figure yourself out. Sometimes, it’s not such a great thing – like when six months fly by and you can barely still call yourself a climber.

After falling out of love with climbing at the end of my yearlong road trip, I shifted my priorities around for a few months. Climbing took a backseat to other life “things” like moving to Colorado, freelancing, and hiking.

Before I knew it, my 26th birthday was approaching. I had been slowly dabbling back in my love affair with climbing, but with less than two weeks before my birthday, I decided to attempt whipping myself into shape for a proper birthday challenge with the lovely duo from The RV Project – who are going to turn this challenge in a kick-ass video for their birthday challenge series with EpicTV.

Making my return to Joe's Valley!

The challenge was to climb 26 v-points in each of the main areas at Joe’s Valley (78 v-points total) within 26 hours. After picking up two new pairs of Five Ten shoes at the Food Ranch, I started the challenge at 5:45 PM on Wednesday, October 15th.

After warming up at the Mine Cart area, I started getting into my challenge at the Riverside Boulders in the Left Fork. Confession: I had never climbed one of the most iconic lines at Joe’s Valley – The Angler (V2). It’s a little tall, and I always wussed out last year when I spent the season there. Oops.

I somehow managed to send The Angler first go, and immediately felt confident about my challenge. Maybe all that trad Jason Gebauer has been making me climb helped my mental game for bouldering!

Photo: The RV Project

Photo: The RV Project

The next morning, we got off to a fairly slow start (which will later come back to haunt me). I started the day on The Small Boulder, which was a goldmine of short, easy problems. After warming up and ticking off a large portion of my Right Fork points, we hiked over to a funky V5 called Blue Eyed. [Read more…]

#CouchToCrush: My 26th Birthday Climbing Challenge

My alarm was set for 6:00 AM, but by 5:43 I knew there was no point in trying to sleep any longer. I got dressed in the dark, caught a glimpse of my unwelcomed mouse roommate scurrying under my door, made a thermos of tea, and tossed my climbing gear into my hatchback before driving out to Denver Bouldering Club for a morning solo session.

You see, I’m in training mode. Big time.My new home sweet home, the Denver Bouldering Club.

Last year while I was living on the road, my dear friends Vikki and Spenser teamed up with EpicTV to start a climbing birthday challenge video project. So far, they’ve featured Alex Johnson and Carlo Traversi, with birthday videos from Alex Honnold, Steve Edwards, and Spenser’s own 30-day birthday challenge in the pipeline too.

So much in my life has changed since the day they sealed the deal and returned to our dirtbag camp declaring “We’re going to do your birthday challenge next October!” – but the promise of a radical week reuniting in Joe’s Valley to film me making a fool of myself on some boulders has brought it all full circle. I may not have my van anymore, but dammit, I’ll always have Joe’s!

So, what’s my birthday challenge?My 26th Birthday Challenge in Joe's Valley with The RV Project.

[Read more…]

That Time I Made a Cameo in a Climbing Video, But All I Did Was Eat Nutella and Apples

Shannon Joslin climbs A River Runs Through It at Joe's Valley while Niko and Spenser film her ascent.No, but seriously. My two friends, Spenser and Vikki, from The RV Project made a killer climbing video, and I’m totally in it – and all I do in my cameo is sit on a rock and stuff my face with Nutella and apples while everyone around me is cheering. Wow. But really, does this shock anyone even a little bit?

Here’s the story: You remember how Niko and I planned to visit Joe’s Valley in Utah for two weeks, and ended up staying for two months? Well, Spenser and Vikki totally instigated our long-term stay, and while we were there we helped them shoot a sweet project they filmed featuring our lady friends Shannon Joslin and Flannery Shay-Nemirow. These incredible women climb for La Sportiva and Five Ten (respectively), and wanted to do a head-to-head battle to see which climbing shoes are better.

It took weeks to film, and months to edit, but Spenser did an incredible job with the final product – it’s such a fun video. Niko and I are really proud to have had a small part in it – mostly Niko, who helped Spenser shoot a few scenes. We both make a cameo during the “A River Runs Through It” scene, and my La Sportiva Katanas get worn by Shannon in the “Self Service” segment. Awesome!

Check it out:

Those ladies know how to crush, amirite? They make those stout climbs look like a cake walk. Bonus points to Niko for his hilariously edited fist-pump. And then there’s me, just hangin’ out, stuffing my face like a total lard. And I wonder why I don’t climb V10 – it just might have something to do with all the Nutella. Sheesh.

Check out more from The RV Project on their Facebook page, and show ‘em some love on Twitter!

The end of an era: A bittersweet farewell to Joe’s Valley!

On our last night in Joe’s Valley, it rained. The canyons were hung thick with clouds, and the tops of some peaks were being dusted with snow. It cast a solemn tone on our departure – which was fitting for me as I finally bid farewell to this valley I had grown to adore so much.

We spent a total of 43 days over a nine-week period in Joe’s Valley, and in the last month we had knit a family unit that took up residence on the second pull-out in the left fork. Some stayed for the entire stint (or at least most of it), with folks like Spenser, Vikki, Adriana, Steven, Jeremy, and Randy becoming staples amongst our makeshift community. Others came and went, like Brad from Colorado and a flock of more than a dozen Floridian kids. Most days were spent climbing with the crew, and evenings saw us huddled around the impressive fireplace behind Vikki and Spenser’s trailer.

Niko on the iconic Angler problem at the riverside area in Joe's Valley.CP Santos finally crushes the Angler at Joe's Valley.

The final few weeks we spent in the valley are a blur of afternoons spent climbing by the riverside, discounted donuts from the Food Ranch, and lazy naps in the hammock. There are no new hard sends for me to report; I exhausted my list of projects, and lost the motivation to try-hard on any new ones. My laziness combined with multiple weekend trips out to Moab made it difficult to will myself to pull hard on anything.

Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.Pretty little things in Joe's Valley.

Perhaps the most memorable event of the last few weeks at Joe’s Valley was the bright Saturday morning when we teamed up with The RV Project, Steven, and Adriana to lend a hand during Orangeville’s annual city clean up. We figured it was the perfect opportunity to express a bit of gratitude to this small town for letting dirtbags live in their canyon and eat all their donuts.

My favorite moment was when the event organizer first laid eyes on us. One of the boys stepped forward and asked what we needed to do to get started, and the woman replied:

Oh, you’re here to help? I thought you just came to eat!

We all laughed, and quickly realized that our crew of six climbers nearly outnumbered the amount of town residents who had shown up. The morning was spent shoveling debris from the sidewalks, pulling stubborn weeds, and clearing out gutters. Our work was rewarded with a picnic at the neighborhood park, and the locals insisted that we take every single leftover with us back to camp. It was definitely a productive and positive day for climber and local relations.

The van worked real hard holding our rakes during the Orangeville city clean-up.The crew feasts on local treats after the clean-up.

Fast-forward a bit, and you’ll find us not in Joe’s Valley, but in Indian Creek. We took a quick weekend trip out to the Moab area to climb some cracks, fell in love with the creek, and then hastily returned to Orangeville one last time to retrieve the crash pads we had left behind at camp. As much as I had been clinging onto the comfort of our little Joe’s Valley nook, it finally felt like time to say goodbye to our little family and move on to the next chapter of our adventure.

The family.

The last evening in Joe’s Valley was spent huddled in the van with Vikki and Spenser. Rain had turned our campsite into a mud pit, and all the firewood was soaked – so we got cozy in the van and watched The Royal Tennenbaums while munching on kale and booze from Trader Joe’s.

Joe’s Valley has by far been my favorite experience of this trip so far. The people I met there, the idyllic bouldering, the town of Orangeville – this place is just perfect. I’m not quite sure when yet, but I will be back. In fact, this whole living in Joe’s Valley thing might be a yearly tradition.