Dark, looming clouds crashed into the limestone swallowing everything in sight. The tops of the peaks were invisible. Crowded by precipitation, the whole valley pooled with the tears of the low front that had decided to sit right on top of our plans, peaks and sacred stone. We had returned from La Pedriza to find the clouds above the jagged Picos and valleys pouring with our dreams of Spanish alpine climbing. We sat in the shop, the classroom, our home, Guiatrek, trying desperately to come up with a plan of attack to finish this course with something memorable. Sure, we could sit back and wait for the front to pass, occupied with plenty of hard sport climbing, but what fun would that be? Day after day of bolted single pitch. Maybe for the weekend warrior, maybe for the content. Me and the lead guides started brainstorming ferociously, trying to figure out a way to really make this memorable for the students. Something that the they will not only develop from, but can leave their course with a feeling of epic success. Because if the students are successful, we are successful. What else are teachers, mentors and guides meant for? Not for pay, not glory, not for anything else but to share knowledge, experiences and success. What about Riglos? The infamous and notorious Riglos? 1000’s of feet of either bolts or some the scariest gear placements of your life. Potato land. Hell ya I exclaimed. I’ve dreamed of Riglos since I started climbing. Overhanging conglomerate that peaked over your head for 50 meters. Shaded by it’s own nature of overly verticalness and overhang. You look up and you don’t see the sky. You see rocks. When you look down, you don’t see rock. You see air. The most spacious and uninviting air you could imagine. Hanging in space with dental floss for rope and a shoelace for an anchor chord. Nothing really makes you feel secure hanging above the deck like that. You climb 100ft off the ground, you feel like you’ve climbed 200. You climbed 500, you feel like you’ve climbed 2000. Amazing. Incredible. Terrifying. Gratifying. Glorious. To top it all off, the rock isn’t rock. When you think of the giants, you think of a cliff, tower or mountain of stone. Solid and consolidated. When you think Riglos, you think a tower of rocks. Mashed together in the beginnings of this planet, scarred and vomited together by tectonics. When you pull on a hold, it is its own separate entity. When you clip a bolt, or place a cam, you are not placing it into the rock, you’re placing into the rocks. There’s such a difference that you soon appreciate and respect the concept. Never are you using the mountain or stone to protect your falls. It’s existence is completely separated by a thousand tiny pebbles that have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. Only to be pushed together by one another or fall thousands of feet to the ground below. I’ve never head the sound of people screaming in Spanish so many times before, with the sound of gunshots below as these pebbles scream down through the dry air, exploding into pieces. You may see people without helmets at other crags. Not in Riglos. Hell just to walk under these beasts, you might as well be wearing a helmet. Half the time the rocks fly a 100 ft away from the wall anyways. You’re probably safer climbing above the rock fall than standing 200 feet away on the approach trail. The climbing grows on you fast. I started skeptical and left wanting more. There may not be a place in the world that offers that style of climbing. In total, we climbed about 3000ft, rappelled about 1000ft, had the students lead and plan their own route, and got to attempt Fiesta De Los Biceps. After climbing the student’s objective, me and Ian slunk away around 7pm at night to give the 1000ft 7a (5.12) tower a shot in the dark. We knew that we would not be successful, but screw it, WE’RE IN RIGLOS!! We bailed off the second pitch, with the crux right above us. You win some, you loose a lot. That’s the name of climbing. But we expected it, it’s 7 o’clock at night, with a 1000ft of hard climbing above us and more than 100ft overhang. To approach with the idea that we’d summit would just be silly for the average human. Just to be able to touch such a beautiful line was good enough for both of us though. We loaded into the van and ventured toward the next destination. 2 days of vacation at the notorious running of the bulls in Pamplona. I return for a second summer in a row.
Drunken red and white streaks pour down the narrow, cobble streets of Pamplona. Streaming, singing, playing. Children, teenager and adults all take part in celebration known as San Fermine. It’s like Mardi Gras, except with giant, horned beasts running through the crowd from 8:00Pm to about 8:30Pm every morning. After about a week of pitches and beautiful climbing, it was really nice to let loose and just have some R&R from the course. I wouldn’t really call it rest days, due to the toll the alcohol and all night partying takes on your body, but more of a mental vacation to take the edge off of dangling 100’s of feet off the ground everyday. We ended the trip with no injuries, casualties, and plenty of stories to share around the campfires. Next stop was back to our home in Potes.
The Valley de verde glimmered with the falling sun as we accelerated in the blue space shuttle towards Ojedo. Content, sleepy, and hungry, we are all quite pleased to be heading back to our little apartment tucked behind the Spanish garden. Although content, we didn’t have much time before the course ended. We began our planning for the final hoorah in the Picos De Europa on the infamous Pico Urriuellu.
Our itinerary is as followed.
Day 1: Take the gonolda from Fuenta De into the Picos. Traverse a small snow slope with big packs and no ice axe. Hike to the top of the world overlooking a sea of clouds Watch Ian take a whipper on the 6b lieback pitch of Sagitario Be fully engulfed in clouds as we rappel into the abyss Watch the most beautiful sunset a human could ever ask for as we smiled ourselves to sleep.
Day 2: Brew up coffee and tea in the morning as we watch the summer illuminate a blanket of feathered clouds above the hidden ocean
Bust ass to the base of the South face Let the students lead all 8 classic pitches up one of the most iconic peaks in the region Solo about 1000 feet of solid 4th class to the high summit in the region
Break our shit down and call it a day
I’m thrilled to have worked such an incredible course. Seeing the students excel so far so quickly and being apart of such an awesome course was more than I could ask for as my first official guiding and teaching opportunity.
So much has passed since my last entry. Adventurous alpine ridge climbing, steep multi pitch sport, coastal breeze, Spanish surfing, limestone crushing, toofa pumping, and granite run outs. I left for my first professional course guiding in Picos De Europa, Spain, along side my mentors and friends Ian and Alfredo. The Montana, Big Sky shredder, the Spanish, rock wizard, and me as the intern.
I left on the 18th of May after getting shutdown on the East Arete of Mt. Humphrey. Exposed ridge climbing just shy of 14,000ft, a boot sized cat walk with a 100ft below you, and plenty of low angle granite crack climbing. Some good rock, some bad rock. Rollin’ with the punches, we unknowingly parked 2 extra miles away from the true parking lot. Starting the approach with some extra distance hindered our advances quite a bit more than we thought it would. Extra calories, extra sun, extra time. We made it to the sub peak of Humphrey, just over 13,000ft, before we decided to bail. We still had the crux head wall in front of us, a delicate and exposed ridge, and plenty of exhaustion to create some trouble for the team. The terrain was well within our ability, but unfortunately, with the extra snow on route, the extra time spent on the approach, and the altitude starting to take hold of one of our team members, we decided it’d be best to bail. We rappelled down into a snow couloir, and began a cliffy and snow covered descent. I was the only one to bring both crampons and an ice axe, so the descent was quite mellow for me. As for the rest of the crew, they only had one or the other, making movement a little bit scarier and scarier as they traversed above the cliff bands below. We made our way back, hopping over small humps and ridges, 15 hours later. Not quite the longest day I’ve had in the mountains, but definitely one of the more adventurous ones. Despite being shutdown, again, it was still a fantastic day with great weather, limitless exposure, and a beautiful Sierra alpine experience. Next stop was my internship guide position in Spain for The Mountain Training school. I couldn’t wait. Alpine, big wall, multi pitch sport, bouldering, adventure trad, run out slabs, deep water soloing… You name it, Spain has it. Besides great food, cheap beer, beautiful scenery, easy access, and short approaches, what else could a dirtbag climber ask for? Paradise at the least.
Here I am now. A little under 30 days of instructing, guiding, teaching, climbing and hanging in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The end of my time in Spain is nearing. We have gone over full leader rescue scenarios, traditional climbing, anchor building, proper belaying, simul climbing, aid and just about anything else you can think of for efficient travel on vertical rock terrain. We have climbed some of the traditional classics in Pedriza, pumped out on the toofa overhangs of Cantabrian and Asturian valleys, and are now preparing for a week in Riglos. A conglomerate, multi-pitch sport haven. Home to the world class Fiestos De Los Biceps, steep overhanging bolted faces, and beautiful orange towers that overlook the vibrant, rolling green hills of Aragon. This will be one of the final trips for the students before we make for our big objectives in the Picos. Pico Urriellu. The tallest mountain in the range, with some of the longest routes in the region. We aim to climb one of the classic routes on the East Face, Cepeda. Consisting of 8 pitches of beautiful adventure limestone trad, a 6a (5.10a) crux, and one of the most beautiful views a human could ask for. Me and Ian have also planned to climbed the classic big wall route on the west face after the course ends. 6c (5.11a), 21 pitches and the steepest and longest route I’ve ever planned to climb. Hopefully, weather will permit us to summit this gorgeous monster and finish the course with a bang. California, I will see you soon. For now, VIVA LA ESPANA!!
2 months have passed since I left my eastern life in Mammoth. I left at the beginning of March, anxiously awaiting my departure for my next adventure. I was scheduled to work as an apprentice rock instructor in the northern region of Spain for the Mountain Training School in the beginning of April. I bought my plane ticket, thumbed through freedom of the hills and prepared myself for an epic summer of climbing, instructing and dirt bagging. The week before my flight, I received an email from my teacher and director of MTS expressing that the course had been cancelled due students dropping from the course. I had been scheduled to teach for 3 months ,which included two separate courses, each a month and a half long. Thankfully, only the first course was cancelled, allowing me to either head to Spain for a month and half of free time or indulge in some Sierra granite for the time being. Strapped for cash, and thirsting for some Sierra trad, I rescheduled my ticket for May 18 and began a barrage of endless trips to Tahoe and Yosemite. Hungry for classics, I rushed to Lovers Leap to start the Tahoe sending. I ticked off some of the moderates on the main wall and the lower buttress and readied myself for some yosemite climbing.
Expecting summer time conditions due to the driest winter in Cali history, anything snow related exited my psyche. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if snow existed any longer. My good buddy and climbing partner called me up for a summit attempt and ski descent of mt shasta. “Is there even snow to ski?” I questioned. My question was soon answered on the drive up. It had been snowing all week previous to our arrival and the mountain tops glimmered with a sea of white from base to summit. I was ecstatic. Moving to mammoth as a ski instructor in the worst winter ever really dampened my stoke for skiing this year. Although powder was abundant, so were avalanche conditions. A considerable forecast with wind slabs on all aspects above 8,000ft had been issued for the area. We had two choices “climb” (post hole our way up a ridge line) or have a lovely day of ski touring in the tree line catching freshies on low angle terrain. I don’t get much joy in slogging up a peak without a fun technical ascent or an enjoyable descent, so we decided to chill and enjoy some fresh snow for once.
When I returned, I began planning for some valley sending amongst the giants. Yosemite had been calling my name and the season had come. I started off taking my time and getting my valley pants nice and fitted. Worked from 5.7 to now confidently onsighting classic 5.9s. The last 2 months have brought slight uneasiness at first, but have allowed me some amazing opportunities. Not only have been allowed to explore more Sierra granite, tick of classics and get my trad climbing efficiency dialed, I have also met a wonderful girl and new climbing partner to share my life of adventure with. In return she has a rope gun and teacher to lead all the pitches.
Tomorrow I to plan summit Mt Humphreys with two of my good friends Ryan and Phil via the east arete. An exposed cat walk, a 5.6 solo and some epic scree hopping will be perfectly in order before my flight next sunday to Spain. Viva la California. I will see you in 2 months!
The last week and a half of east side life has been pure, dirtbag bliss. The car camping, boulder pad hotel crashing, sent projects and shared laughs with friends have been unstained joy. The music blasting as I propelled myself South toward the playgrounds of the Sierras, the long days of absolute smiles and the overabundance of stellar climbing will be thoroughly missed. I now embark on my next adventure with my great friend and climbing partner, Philabot, to the crags of all crags.. Yosemite Valley. If weather permits we plan to climb two classics, Nutcracker and After six, along with a couple more unknown objectives. With the car packed to head back to Sacramento, a heart full of excitement and a pocket full of unpaid wages collected from a former employer, I’m ready for the next three weeks of greatness before the big trip to Spain.
It feels as if the experiences and events of the last six months have been warped through the 4th dimension, spun through a teleporter and thrown across the timescale. Half of a year full of amazing days climbing, laughing and living has passed right before my feet. An infinite ridgeline crossed and looked back upon with nothing but a smile in my eye and two hands thrown into the blue sky above. This life that has been laid before my feet has certainly given me a great stride and wonderful pace for the next decade of my life. It really couldn’t be possible without the help of my wonderful family, the amazing friends I’ve gained and retained, and a never ending stoke on life.
The last two months have been littered with unexpected opportunities. The snowless year in the Sierras drove me from the ski instructor life in Mammoth, back home to my former life in Sacramento. I knew that some home cooked meals and little R&R would do my wallet some good. Before I had more than a few days to relax, an opportunity as a rope access technician came about my way. The job was to take place 300ft above the streets of Houston, washing the top of the reliant stadium. The catch was washing a football stadium with nothing but garden hoses, a small bottle of cleaning solution and plenty of laughs and stories to take the load off. We decided that co-workers wasn’t quite the right title for our crew, but co-sufferers. Although it was a task of grunt work, the light mood and attitude of everyone made it all worth while. It also gave me the ability to gather all the necessary gear for a summer of dirtbagging, Spanish climbing, and guiding.
My dedication to training before my first time guiding professionally and the Yosemite climbing season has paid off more than I could’ve imagined. I’ve finally gained my endurance on the rope back after the many months of bouldering, and have started developing my mental fortitude for the hard sierra trad climbs. I have made alot of progress since the elvis leg of Snake Dike. I have finally started ticking off classic moderates of the Sierras and have readied myself for a summer on the sharp end. To kick off the beginning of hard trad climbs, I recently stepped up to Feudal Beerlords in Owens River Gorge. An awkward 5.10d finger crack that sucks up gear nicely and offers a variety of footholds on the face. The goal I have set for myself by the end of summer is to be confidently onsighting 5.10 on trad and working up to 5.11. Although ambitious, I have become more psyched and motivated than ever. With the necessary tools, confidence and stoke, I hope to be knocking down some hard trad lines in the valley and start my AMGA rock courses in the coming winter.
But first, a Whitney adventure with my good buddies Kris and Pete for a ski descent of the mountaineers route, a rock climb up the east ridge and a high sierra 5.10 up the mithral dihedral on Russell. Rock climbing up to 14,000 sure will be quite the adventure.
After 9 months of technical climbing and training, crossing miles of glaciated terrain, climbing thousands of vertical feet, this is what I’ve put together to share with everyone. Take a gander. Cheers
Another excellent month of excitement for the rouge adventurer. A fantastic cragging trip to the infamous Red Rocks of Nevada. Towers of burgundy sandstone crowd the empty desert, choking the arid breathe from the rolling landscape. The sky, illuminated by the casino twilight, clouds your vision with Vegas smog, cigarette smoke and regret. It travels both high and low for 30 miles over the breathless desert to obscure the natural starlight above. The question of whether the sun is on the rise or about to set is constantly of question as you peak your curious nose out of your sleeping bag to the silhouette of the emerging cliff bands.
~ 11.b rebel without a pause (redpoint)
~ 11.d pockets full of dirt (redpoint)
~ 2 pitch 5.7
As I returned from the wild blood rocks, my alpine partner called me for a last minute objective of an alpine ice couloir in the Sierras. We would make a late night approach to basecamp after I made the 5 hour journey home. However, the severe drought, later than late season and bad timing made the plan suspect. He called me about an hour before my arrival to mammoth saying that the gullies are dry and not worth the effort and danger. He did say, however, that roadside ice in June Lake was in thick and had accessible top rope anchors. I rushed inside my apartment, scrambled about gathering gear and slammed north toward June. The ice was thick with a beautiful blue tone, but the top rope was not as accessible as we thought. It was either a WI3 lead on secure ice, or a 5.8 iced over scramble up loose choss. Neither of us being waterfall leaders made us desperate for a low consequence top rope anchor. I soon realize that the loose, unprotected rock climb had much more potential for a bad situation than a low angle ice lead. I looked at my partner and said, “fuck it I’ll lead it.” Before I even contemplated the situation, I roped up and began placing pro. I got up to a thick section of the waterfall and built a 3 point anchor comprised of black diamond 20cm express screws. The day ended great with my first waterfall lead, a safe return and plenty of laps on top rope.
I have now embarked on my next mini adventure in the bbq loving, y’all using, southern state of texas as a rope access technician. Cheers from the lone star state