Saturday, May 12, 2012

Out of the Blue and into the Black

My time in Boulder has come to an end. I’ve more or less lived the last six months as a normal human would. I made money and spent money. I’m a litttle scared and very excited to leave this comfortable monotony behind. The cold winter is gone and the time for sending in here. I’m not only going to challenge myself to difficult rock climbs but I’m going to live like less of a dirt bag on this next trip. If it means less time on the road then so be it. My days of penny pinching are over. I want to find a way to use my talents to make money. Not a ton but just enough to make my life on the road more comfortable. The first major destination on my tip will be Yosemite Valley. My life goals lie on the 3000 foot chunk of rock known as El Capitan. I feel like I’m finely at the stage in my life where I’m ready to test myself to these goals. I’m going to spend as few days as possible on the Valley Floor, away from the Rangers who are so eager to hand out tickets and the hordes of tourists who just make me want to leave Yosemite.

My final week in Colorado has been both amazing and awful. I made some bad decisions in my eagerness and stress to leave boulder. What should have been a happy time for me has turned stressful and problematic. None the less I feel I learned a thing or two that will hopefully influence me to improve my future lifestyle. All in all however I’m proud of the time I spent here. I met my financial goals in an extremely difficult job and still found the time to do some amazing rock climbs. On top of that I made some awesome new friends who share my passion for the sport.

After clocking out and saying good bye to my fellow co-workers at the West End Tavern I headed down to the Black Canyon with Madaleine Sorkin, one of CO’s most accomplished trad climbers. Our goal was to free the 2000 foot Hallucinogen Wall 5.13R VI. I checked out the climb a few weeks prior with my good buddy Cody Scarpella and the climbing on the route seemed within my ability. The numerous R rated pitches had me a little worried but in a way in kind of made the climb more desirable. When Madaleine and I showed up to the North Rim it was clear that the wall would be backing in the sun all day with temperatures in the 80’s. Those sustained runout face climbing pitches where going to be no joke. Our plan was to spend a day stashing food, water, sleeping bags and a portaledge on top of pitch 12 just before the pitch 13 crux. We would spend the first day on the wall climbing up to our stuff on pitch 12 then spend the night. The next day we would climb the remaining four pitches to the top. That night I set my alarm for 5:30 am and tired to go to sleep thinking about how all those scary pitches would feel in the heat.

I feel like I had just closed my eyes when the alarm went off on my phone. I got up and made a hasty breakfast in the dark. I met Madaleine at her van and we thrashed down the poison ivy cover gully. It was a bit scary to see the dark towering walls rise above me as we descended lower down the gully towards the roaring river. Was I really doing this? Was I ready for such a challenging scary climb? This was the first time I ever climbed here. Was it such a good idea to be going for the hardest route? This climb had only seen two ascents  by truly badass climbers. Who was I to think I was in the same leauge as Hansjörg Auer and Joe Mills. The Hallucinogen seemed to scowl down at me as we racked up at the base. I could see our stuff hanging on pitch 12, fifteen hundred feet up. “You’ll never get to me” it seemed to say. “Screw it” I thought. This is why I love rock climbing; The Adventure and the unknown. It’s time to put my skills to the test. Up we went with good progress. Yes it was scary, the rock was loose, the protection was far apart and the climbing was challenging. By the time I got up to the harder more serious pitches, the wall was fully backing in the sun. I fell once on a tricky 5.12 move on pitch seven that proved to be real reachy and hard to protect. The remaining five pitches to our portalledge went smoothly and quick. There were many times where I felt like I was going to come off but I managed to hold on and not take any savage whippers. After a restless night on the poralledge we were ready to go to the top. We had both sent all the pitches up to that point. It was time to gear up and lead the crux. I was so sore and tired but I wanted to send this climb so bad. I felt like I was going to come off on almost every move on the pitch but I held on and managed to send the entire thing on my first go of the day. The route was in the bag! Like a champ Madaleine followed the pitch clean. She would be the first female to send the route free! Three more pitches of scary loose climbing brought us to the top where we high fived in the baking sun. The third and fourth free ascent of The Hallucinogen Wall had just been made!

This climb was a great achievement for me and a perfect finish to my stay in Colorado. It was an excellent adventure that was both challenging and enjoyable (in an odd sort of way). With Colorado behind me, I look forward to the inevitable challenges and adventures of the next six months. I’ll keep you informed. Peace!


  1. I really enjoyed this story, Brad. You're one of my role models and part of the reason why I am where I am. Thanks for sharing what you're experience was like, it's cool to hear it first hand. Big congrats to you and madaleine!

  2. Thanks dude, I look forward to seeing you in The Valley!

  3. It's better to burn out
    than to fade away

    Nice NY reference. Nice climb. Assent is like permission, Ascent is a climb.

    Keep cranking, and keep writing about it!

  4. nice! good climb, and read.
    did you check it out on rappel to check it out or did you start at the bottom first?
    congrats anyways... can't imagine those middle pitches when it's hot all that well.

  5. Saw a link to your blog on FB. Great work on the Hallucinogen! Have fun on the big stone in Yos, I'll be around there too as a weekend warrior and maybe a wall later this summer. Have fun