first tick

Antonio vs No Skill 20140517
Phil belaying Antonio on No Skill 12c
Phil vs Terrible Angel 20140517
Phil on the start to Terrible Angel (8c?)

Phil claims the first tick of the season. Antonio and/or Arthur had claimed first tick, I think, a couple months back but those statements could not be verified. I understand their frustration. Such a fortuitous symbol may foreshadow a fruitful season for one Phil.

Phil on Tom’s Burly Shuffle 12c:

Though not prone to political activism I do think most entrenched politicians should suck it, making this dude compelling: Dustin Barca. He deserves a read is all I’m say’n.

Freediving seems super rad and I never do it. I don’t know what to say about this other than it’s French: Narcose

infinitesimal progress

One little pull...
One little pull…
We got a bleeder.
…and we got a bleeder.

Strictly Ballroom got a little closer to becoming a finished project after Saturday’s session at Owl Tor. I hit the mono move off the dog (I love saying that), for the third time ever, and slapped the jug at the break. Though not a statement of undeniable success I did pull through the mono more confidently than ever. I knew I would hit the crimp and I new I would make a reasonable bid for the next jug. This has me psyched. Unfortunately one good pull on my ring finger totally split my skin. By my estimation I get one or two pulls per finger on the mono. If I alternate between ring and middle fingers, which is reasonable, I can get four attempts per day at most. That’s troubling. Oh well – Owl Tor’s just not giving away projects. Who knew?

Diet is important now. It’s always sorta important but now it might be the most important thing. I hate dieting. I hate that climbers need to be small. Men should bench press boatloads of iron, grow beards, eat meat, drink, pillage… the opposite of dieting. So I better get a project ticked this time around.

because more difficult is more awesome

Keeping with this theme I’m trying out a new method of video delivery – an inappropriately complex and compulsively robust technique that’s fully rad. Behold:


file: “rtmp://”,
width: “720”,
height: “480”

me on Better Than Life 8a+, Owl Tor, Santa Maria, California

6 million ways to die

We are merely visitors to Owl Tor, but these bastards keep it real. They’re there all day. They’re there right now. And I know when I’m in the mood to have my face ripped off, they’re available. They are the critters of Owl Tor.

Northern Spectacled Anaconda 

Homodo Dragon 

Greater Beige Belly 

Kissing Viper 


Owl Tor is named for the owl who used to live there. We still hear him sometimes but his precise residence is not known. Other birds are all over the place though – vultures, hawks, starlings, crows, etc. There’s also bats but the last two times I saw them I was too busy peeing my pants to take a picture. Take a run on Fallopian Tube if you’re curious.

Some variety of furred critter resides in the grass above the cliff proper. I think I saw one once and maybe have a picture but I couldn’t find it. I assure you they are there though. While topping out on Shatter Hand last weekend I utilized their dirt chambers on the mud/grass headwall. They’ve really undertaken an impressive drilling operation – we’re talking miles of tunnels on super dubious terrain.

Oh yeah, and ‘wormies’ – I saw them once and wouldn’t sit on the rocks at Owl Tor for an entire season for fear they would invade me via rectum. Wormies had gone decades without a sighting and, as far as I know, have not been sighted since. Believing they had the Tor to themselves for the duration of the rainy season, I surprised the wormies one damp day with my girlfriend at the time. This would be Evelyn’s first time climbing/belaying and my first encounter with the critters I now call wormies. I had forgotten my rope at home but I’ll never forget what I saw in the water that day: foot-long tape worm-looking things writhing around in the putrid pee bath that constitutes Owl Tor’s intermittent water source. And no one believes my account. They’ll believe me when a wormie climbs out of the hell nectar to make a run at some poor soul’s colon.

Be careful out there.

the week in training

My spring climbing season is going approximately as planned. I’m campusing decently, bouldering sufficiently and have managed to put in a few good days on Strictly. Saturday was my sixth day of the season at Owl Tor and my third day on this year’s redpoint route of focus, for which the campusing and bouldering is supposed to provide adequate power. I burned three attempts on the lower section of Strictly Ballroom and two from the ledge to the top, strategically splitting the route into two obvious sections. I’m still concerned with the difficulty of the mono to the crimp at the first bolt, although this day I made progress, hitting the crimp maybe three times. It’s going to take more than a few more hard days of work before I’m approaching legitimate redpoint burns. On a positive note, my timing has coincided perfectly with Lizard mating season. After making moves on a local lady, this guy dominated my shoe.

From Wednesday’s session at the Shed, 1-4-7 on the mediums:

The campus board at the Shed is built to standard specifications: rungs are spaced 22cm, 15-degrees overhanging. The left rungs are the only set to come from a manufacturer – Metolius mediums. The right two sets are my own creation and are considerably smaller.

And for some Thursday climbing action, Micah and I went to Upper Gibraltar to get on a couple of the most mediocre routes in town. This photo is of Micah leading A Route Runs Through It (5.10c) with his pack on to facilitate a quick exit in fading light.

the first day of the rest of my life

Saturday was my first day of the season on Strictly Ballroom. She’s still an angry route. So much anger. Things went OK though, I think. I expected it to be hard. My biggest concern at this point is the mono move at the first bolt. The start is about V9 to the second bolt, I would guess. The crux of this section involves a mono to a bad crimp that I’ve never actually done. Beginning a project on which I haven’t done all the moves is a bit ambitious. But that’s alright – I expected this. The rest of the route isn’t so bad. From the second bolt to the chains is probably 13c, so after a good rest I expect it’s manageable. My two-finger strength felt good. There’s two two-finger pockets at the start and three consecutive two-finger pockets higher up that comprise some hard sequences. All five two-finger pockets felt about how I thought they would, which is to say good, considering I usually think moves will feel better than they actually end up feeling. All in all, it’s hard for me to make a prediction for my chances at a redpoint. This is a new level of difficulty for me. The really interesting part is: I know I can redpoint, but I probably won’t. Physically, there’s no doubt I can adapt. Throw in other factors like the stress of pushing back the inside of my performance envelope every training day, while at the same time staving off injury, and I don’t know… maybe.

commence Operation Don’t Suck

I’m back from a one week trip to Henderson, Nevada for my bi-yearly commitment to bettering myself professionally, namely the CCIE written exam, and I’m fully focused now on the coming summer’s climbing goals, that is: don’t suck. This weekend saw a refreshingly populous crew of Santa Barbara locals for the season’s third day at Owl Tor. We included Justin, Andy, Skip, and myself. Micah, Elhanan, and Phil were noticeably absent. They each cited respective excuses – Micah’s benched with shoulder issues, Phil was in Vegas, Elhanan is fat – like the Tor cares. The Tor remembers these indiscretions with the intention of jarring our memories in December, as the monsoon season steals any opportunities for progress, so that we may realize why we’ve failed on our projects. She reminds us we have indeed failed and who we may blame for that. Surprise, Tor: we’re already failing and it’s only April. I’m too old for this. I’m going to push hard for a redpoint on Strictly Ballroom this spring. One of us is going to lose here. Either I’ll clip chains despite Owl Tor’s best attempts to maim me, or I’ll flail pitifully for 7 months at Central California’s answer to Mordor. Whichever the outcome, I’m ramping up for an entertaining go of it, and so is everyone else. Justin redpointed Auto Magic on his second day of work this season, his second season climbing; Andy did 11 laps; and Skip is squeezing blood from mud. I had one good burn on BTL then flailed the rest of the day.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) – redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a) – redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) – redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) – ground to the sidepull after the 3-finger after the fifth bolt
  5. Shatter Hand (5.12d) – fell at the last draw, worked out the top
  6. White Cougar (5.12b) – falls at the top
  7. Auto Magic (5.12a) – redpoint
  8. Anchor Punch (5.12a) – 1 fall
  9. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a) – 1 fall