Going All In

So far this fall has been very productive for me. After injuring my right middle finger trying ‘Hasta La Vista’ this summer I was definitely worried my winter climbing would be compromised as well. After taking most of August off and just climbing easy I started to pick up the training in September. My goal for the winter is to work and hopefully redpoint ‘Necessary Evil’ at the ‘Virgin River Gorge’ (VRG) in Arizona. I have tried this route a few times in the past and have never really made any progress on it. It’s very hard for me and not my style at all. The holds are small and it is hard to get good conditions on it. Fortunately, even with a finger injury, I was able to crimp and start training finger strength. In addition to just climbing training I have been working on my fitness; running quite a bit and doing yoga to try and lean out. It seems to be working.

In October a friend, Rob Jensen, convinced me to go up to Clark Mtn. I have been to Clark before and had previously redpointed a dream route called ‘Jumbo Pumping Hate’. I decided to head up and my initial goal was to try ‘Wall of Glass’, a hard 5.14a that I had been on before. When we got up there Chris and Joe were trying Tusk and it looked amazing! The line, the movement, the exposure… I really wanted to get on it. Tusk is a famous 5.14a/b put up by Randy Leavitt in the mid 1990s. I remember seeing a cover photo of Rock&Ice with Randy on Tusk and it was such an inspiring line I’ve always wanted to try it but was intimidated. It’s an immense sport climb, over 30m long and steep the whole way. While we were there Chris redpointed it with ease (after working his mega project) and Joe put in some good links. I didn’t get on it that day but just to see it get climbed on was motivating.

Randy Leavitt on Tusk, 5.14a/b. Jorge Visser photo.

So the next weekend I went back up with Rob and got on it. I surprised myself that I was able to do the moves and there wasn’t anything that would hurt my finger too badly. It was hard but there were a few good rests in between hard sections and some pretty long spaces between bolts. I tried it three times and managed to figure out an ok sequence and go to the top of the climb only once. I thought I might be able to do it but I would have to do every move perfectly and really milk the rests. Honestly I didn’t think I would do it this year because the season was coming to a close but luckily I managed to get out there the following weekend and redpoint it. I fought the whole way up but climbed smart, used the rests and didn’t rush any moves I wasn’t sure about. I was super excited and it was definitely a highlight route of my climbing career. In case you don’t trust me that it is a good route, Randy Leavitt names ‘Tusk’ as one of the highlights of his sport climbing!!! (http://www.neropes.com/CommTeams.aspx?mid=4&id=28)

Here’s a few photos from Tane Owens showing some different angles.

Silhouetted above the Mojave Desert - Photo Tane Owens

Mike Doyle on Tusk , Clark Mtn - Photo Tane Owens


While I had been to Clark Mtn on three days I was splitting my weekends between Clark and Welcome Springs, a climbing area in Southern Utah also referred to as Cathedral. Technically Cathedral is just a sector at Welcome Springs but it is definitely the most impressive sector. Cathedral is a super impressive cave with steep, long, hard climbing with such routes as ‘Golden Direct’ and ‘Solid Gold’. Last fall I managed to do ‘Golden Direct’ but this fall I had been trying ‘The Incredible Huck’, a long 5.14 that features some big moves and is capped off with a hard V7/8 boulder problem right before the anchors. A few weekends in a row I would go to Clark on Saturday and then Cathedral on Sunday. Both areas involve a hike and long, steep climbs. Needless to say every Sunday evening I was pretty exhausted. Since I had been getting on ‘Huck’ on my second day I was usually pretty tired but it features moderate climbing between good rests up to the hard boulder problem. I was able to link up to the boulder problem quickly and fell up there a few times. The weekend after I did ‘Tusk’, I went out to Cathedral pretty fresh and managed to send ‘The Incredible Huck’ as well! I was pretty convinced both of these routes would take me into the spring so I was definitely happy to be seeing some success in the fall.

Climbing on 'The Incredible Huck' - photo Luke Olson

Both ‘Tusk’ and ‘The Incredible Huck’ are not my main goals though. As I stated earlier my main goal is ‘Necessary Evil’. Goals are funny. I used to try to keep my goals private so that if I didn’t accomplish them I could just quietly walk away. I’ve come to realize that telling people what my goals are makes me more accountable. Knowing that I’ll have to answer questions about the progress and perhaps failure of a goal makes me more motivated. So now it’s out there. People know my goal and now it is up to me to make it happen.

Taking a page out of Lapens’ book I decided that quitting my job wasn’t going to work so I needed to move closer to the climbing area. Don’t know who Lapens are? You silly people. Check this out and be amazed: http://www.dpmclimbing.com/articles/view/steve-lapen-ghetto-booty . The VRG is about 2 hours from my house. That’s not too bad for a weekend drive but there’s no way I can take 4 hours just to drive back and forth on a workday. That’s 4 hours of driving let alone the actual climbing time. I’m very fortunate that my job even lets me take time off midday but taking 10 hours would be pushing it. To solve this problem I decided to rent an apartment in Mesquite, NV. Fortunately it was pretty cheap and friends will stay there as well but now I’ll be able to set up on work days, put in 3-4 hours before heading out to the cliff, climb 4-5 hours and be back online to work another 3-4 hours without wasting 4 hours driving. The reason for this whole endeavor is that conditions at the VRG are tricky and if I only had one day a week to try the route I might never get good conditions. Hopefully being closer will allow me to take advantage of good conditions.

Yup, that’s the plan. Rather than going to Costa Rica and surfing in warm water, I’m going to be hanging out in freezing cold weather above a road cut. Sigh, it sounds crazy even to me. Yay???

I-15 running through the Virgin River Gorge

Hopefully it works out. It might not but at least I can say it won’t be for lack of trying. It’s a gamble but I’m short stacked, holding queens at best and going all-in.

Sunset - Welcome Springs, UT - photo Luke Olson

3 Responses to “Going All In”

  1. Inspiring stuff! We met you last fall at the cathedral and saw you doing some climbing on what I think was the Incredible Huck. After that, I found out about your training manual, and I just want to say ‘thanks’ for putting it together – it’s helpful. It’s also nice to know that people can keep reaching their climbing goals, even lofty goals such as the tusk, while keeping their job. I’m in the 9-5 world so it’s nice to get some outside inspiration to keep progressing towards my climbing goals.

    Keep crushing; I’ll be stoked to hear about your progress on Necessary!

    -Travis England/Seattle

  2. I totally agree with telling people the goals you have, I feel it keeps me from sweeping it under a rug, and having people ask me about how its going, the progress, and what might help to achieve it!

    That and moving closer to the project is very inspiring and shows the incredible dedication you have! Keep it up and I hope you crush it soon!

  3. [...] and that was the support I have received from the climbing community. In the fall of 2013 I wrote a post about how I was committing to trying Necessary Evil. I wanted to put my goals out there and make [...]

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