Why we are a little Crazy...

What does Type 1 Diabetes have to do with climbing?  For me, well, it goes a little bit like this. A little over 12 years ago, I was a (relatively) normal kid, eating honey nut Cheerios, drinking Gatorade and living a carefree life. In the early spring of 1999, I came down with a nasty case of encephalitis which triggered the auto-immune disruption that killed my pancreas and left me this gift that keeps on giving: Type 1 Diabetes!

So in the intervening years, I decided to play the cards that were dealt to me, prioritizing my health over monetary gains, careers and friends. Not letting Diabetes dictate what I would or would not do has become my full-time job, and that has meant that any job or hobby must involve a significant physical component or else it becomes detrimental to managing this condition.

Rock climbing started out as a Youtube induced college dream and has since become my passion and my job. I have the privilege of introducing others to the vertical world and I write and photograph climbing and the amazing places that this activity has taken me. Managing my sugar has been a challenge in all of this, but it can be done with the right attitude. So basically I climb rocks and mountains (and rappel into slot canyons from time to time) while keeping Type 1 Diabetes at bay.

I have been doing this for the last decade in one form or another because it just seemed natural to me; the path of least resistance. Accepting the challenges you have to face in order to assess and overcome them. From my point of view it would be strange and unnatural to do anything besides work, work out, eat the same things every day (just about), manage my sugar and climb all over North America as finances permit. You can get a little background on my personal climbing/adventuring background that has led me to this point by checking out my older archived blogs on the right.

On memorial day weekend (2011) while driving out to a friends wedding in Massachusetts, my wife pointed out the fact that other people who have Type 1 themselves or loved ones with the condition could benefit from seeing what we do out climbing on the road, and that even people who don’t have the slightest reason to care about Diabetes can still embrace healthy living!

So, beginning on January 1, 2012, I am committing myself to a solid year of climbing, at locations all over North America, to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and funding for the future of LivingVertical. The time between then and now will be spent in preparation as there is a LOT to do to get ready, and in just a few months, it will be go time!

Dude, you're back?! I thought you were out west?!

In the course of human events, due to unforeseen circumstances etc, shit happens!

Oddly enough, undertaking a cross country climbing road trip is not beyond the grasp of “Murphy” and in a series of unfortunate events this trip ended prematurely…
Since I had been nursing a partially ruptured tendon pulley (finger injury) which I sustained through what can only be described as sheer idiocy, back in April, my ability to climb was compromised from the outset. Our plan was to stick to easier routes which I had experience on from prior trips, in order that I would be able to follow more and lead less. After a day of climbing it became apparent that this plan was not as feasible as originally planned, so, taking weather, physical conditions and motivation into account, it made more sense to stick a fork in it earlier than later.

So…after a grand total of 4 days, 3000 road miles, a full pound of Beef Jerky, and one joyless pitch of 5.7, we arrived back in NY.

Over the last few days I have been processing what happened and it certainly is a lot harder to accept what feels like a “loss” than a “win”, especially of this magnitude, but while pride and plans took a thrashing, the good news is that pride grows back and plans are self imposed so it is far from the end of the world. My only regret is not getting to see my dear friends across the US that I hoped to visit with as a part of this excursion, including but not limited to: Josh, Collin, Brad S, Uncle Frank Sanders, All the Custer gang, Daryl S, Nick, Zeke and Seth…

Keep watching this space, however—there is plenty of climbing to be done here on the East Coast and I plan on getting after it. On memorial day, I had the pleasure of climbing Layback (5.5) with Trevor and Vanessa—and it beat the hell out of face stuffing beer-bqs—especially since my early return allowed me to get in a stout meal of ribs and brisket at Billy Joes Ribworks on the Newburgh waterfront! The weather is promising for tomorrow and I have a feeling more “upward progress” will be made…

The ministry of silly walks

Is taking this show on the road for the next month. The arduous toiling behind university lecterns has been finished for the time being and all the paperwork completed. My guide license exam is also finished and while I am waiting for the results, the wild West awaits.

I intend to update as frequently as time (and weather) will allow but Mickey and I have a tight schedule and a lot of ground to cover in very little time, so there might only be minor updates during the trip itself…

I hope to include more video in this trip than the previous ones. I have some big(ish) plans in the works in terms of using this trips footage to greater ends than my own reminiscence when once again embroiled in the tedium of conventional life. I look forward to updating everyone on this exciting new project once a few necessary details become more clear…

Destinations will be…

South Dakota (Badlands, Needles, Spearfish[?], Mt Rushmore)
Wyoming (Devils Tower, Tensleep, Tetons, Lander and Sinks Canyon)
Idaho (City of Rocks, Dierkes Lake [?] Castle Rock)
California (Lovers Leap, Yosemite and Bishop area)

I really appreciate the support and interest of you who read and comment and follow along! ………..So please do!

Many thanks to the Kurek family for loaning me their firstborn to be my ropegun; also for the generous extension of the vehicle–greatly greatly appreciated!

A bunch of n00bs in the desert...

So Joshua tree was looking prime and basically everything else in the state of CA was looking beat so we were surprised and pleased to see that mega-classic routes were woefully devoid of the usual crowds that gather to enjoy 3-5 star routes with 5 to 10 minute approaches.

For accommodations we got to enjoy “the pit”, a free (albeit unimproved) camping area, replete with outdoor furniture and a healthy, graciously provided firewood stash. Here we met Andy, who became our companion and living breathing guidebook. We will hopefully see him again once we make it back up there to enjoy more fireside chats.

The focal point of this past week climbing was to improve my leading ability and overcome the fear of being on the sharp end. Dealing with fear is an inherent part of climbing itself and all the moreso for the leader and my goal (partially achieved at the time of this writing)was to manage it and be able to face falling with the appropriate level of caution but without the paralyzing horror that has plagued me on and off.

Simply getting a bunch of consistent leads in helped immensely; I am trusting my feet much more and have found that listening to music helps to drown out the annoying voices in my head…

(the only catch is that you have to change songs sometimes, at less-than convenient moments…)

At the moment, I have gotten into a good headspace for leading routes that don’t push my limits of difficulty–so now the trick will be applying this progress to harder routes. When we head back to JT I will be focusing on 5.9 and harder routes–although TRing some hard 10 slabs has REALLY helped me trust my feet on the blank crystalline seas beneath me. Progress is cool but the job is only half done at this point.

We took some time off from my self-help project to entertain Christie and Mike for a weekend of climbing. We got to get on some of the most convenient routes (possibly anywhere in the world?) at Trashcan Rock, and new heights were reached.

Christie on Tiptoe 5.7+

Christie trying to convince Mike that “climbing can be fun” (if you climb with your feet, not your knees)

Mike getting psyched up for a slab romp-he has just completed his pre game ritual of sunscreen application. With only 45 minutes of lathering up, this route had no chance…

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to climb with Larry David…well, I found out this weekend. Stef has video that may or may not be leaked, but I will leave that up to her discretion…

And if you were climbing at Quail Springs, Ryan Campground or Cyclops rock this weekend and heard the impassioned cries for beta or sounds which commonly accompany childbirth, it was THIS GUY right here.

After much extraneous commentary, Mike sent–5.7d–and here is the proof!

…And then there’s MAUDE!!!! (Christie and Mike watch a 10 year old demonstrate how its done)

After a lovely weekend, the weather began to heat up. With an impending anniversary and a good bit of sunburn, San Diego started sounding like a good idea. We will be spending some time here and then return for part 2 in Joshua Tree in a week or so once its nice and cool again…

Foiled plans and new horizons

Unlike my last update, I have pictures to illustrate a few of our doings over the last week since leaving UT. Additionally, I am not sitting in a Starbucks, downwind from the shitter, while having to overhear coffee orders and the gossip of Yucca Valley. I am actually now in San Diego at Christies…but we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

Leaving Springdale wasn’t easy. Well actually, once we got all of our gear in the car it was pretty straightforward. A campfire, hosted graciously by Joanie, was the perfect venue for saying goodbye…

I enjoyed regaling Corey and Daniel with a few tales–it makes me realize that I will miss some of the fine individuals I had the privilege of meeting this summer.

Our initial plan of coming down through the Sierras was nixed by prohibitive weather conditions. We corrected our course, changing our destination from Tahoe to Bishop, hoping that a slight alteration might buy us some time in an awesome destination close to the Sierras. En route we traveled through the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains (the range just east of the Owens River Gorge and the Sierras)

These trees are some of the oldest living things on earth. We did a little hiking and some driving and were very pleased to encounter snow and ice after a summer spent cursing the scorching heat of the desert–putting on layers was a welcome change of pace!

Driving further into the park and gaining elevation led from cold and wet to cold and snowy

5.10 rubber still works well in the snow

As did the company jackets from ZAC

Unfortunately, the snow kept getting deeper and the hills got steeper and a few mini wipeouts on the unmaintained road indicated that a reversal might be in order.
As we headed back down towards the west (and Bishop) the skies began to clear and beautiful vistas of the snow covered Sierras came into view.

It LOOKED like we would get away with a fast one and that the weather might avoid pummeling Bishop and we could wait out the nastiness that was afflicting Yosemite and Tahoe in a wonderful place. Not so. By the time we descended into Bishop, the clouds and storms rolled in and rain and lightning furiously punctuated a meteorological tirade.

We weighed the options of waiting around in a car packed with climbing gear and food for three days with no place to stay while the weather passed versus simply cutting out for the warmth and accessibility of Joshua Tree.

The net result?

Back to yet another desert! Wheeeee!!!
Free camping, dirtbags galore and more climbable rock than can be reasonably imagined by any vertical aspirant.

An update in brief

Not a great deal to report from the road. After hauling ass across Nevada in hopes of playing on some Tahoe Granite (specifically Lovers Leap and the Phantom Spires)it seemed that the weather was not in our favor and we would have to wait several days in a cramped car to get out and climb. Not appealing. A bit of course correction took us through Bishop, only to find the same scenario in play there.

After much deliberation, we decided to head down to Joshua Tree where we have found impeccable weather and the obviously vast selection of routes to climb. We are currently calling “the Pit” our home-free camping, replete with outdoor sofas and large sections of carpet for our enjoyment. We have been sharing it with a fellow named Andy and he has been a good source of local information and company. Since we will be here for a while instead of moving around more as we had hoped, we are trying to get friends to come out and climb with us here.

Christie and Mike will be our first victims–er partners out here this weekend. Pictures will follow in upcoming blogs.

Catching up.

This summer has not found me burdened with photographic duties–at least not for my own edification. As my time in Zion winds down and I look ahead to what the upcoming months of play/travel will hold I am realizing that there are some photographic loose ends that need some attention.

This is Nick and I climbing Ashtar Command–his first multi-pitch outing ever, and a pretty memorable one considering the fact that half way up the first pitch we were verbally accosted by a hefty construction foreman on the road below. Bear in mind that we knowingly chose this route even though it is adjacent to ongoing construction, but the area remains open throughout daylight hours (8am-8pm) and we had just enough time to squeeze in a run on this little tower, as we started shortly before 6pm.

” Hey…YOU…get down here before we tow your car and impound it”

What this corpulent ruffian did not realize was that it was not even my car in question, for I had asked Nick to drive–and his car, unlike mine, would be worse for the wear if it were treated so harshly. I called down for Nick to “take” or anchor the rope so that I could build a quick anchor from which to lower back down to the ground.

Once on the ground we descended back down to the road, expecting to find a swarm of construction machinery poised to pave or plow or SOMEHOW alter the area of the shoulder where we had parked. Instead, we found our new friend–lets call him Moe or some other monosyllabic epithet–who irritably explained that we had to be out of there by 8 pm so that when the night construction began, it could go on unhindered.

Nick patiently assured him that two pitches of climbing would not likely entail and overnight spent on the wall, and that had he simply left us the hell alone, we would have had a much greater margin of error against inconveniencing the construction crews.

After this battle of wits, which we eventually conceded, the car was moved further away and a half hour of precious time was squandered before we huffed back up to our climb and gave it another go.

It was a fun two pitches but by the time I was belaying Nick to the top it looked as though we were not going to make it down before 8. I was loathe to inform him of the time as he climbed up to the anchors and I simply began the process of lowering him to the first of three rappel stations. I have never moved so quickly on a climb before; I did have to sacrifice one locking carabiner, but all told we were back down and in the car by 7:59.

I tumbled a bit of the way down the descent trail but otherwise it was a hard-fought victory.

(Nick and I at P1 Anchors)

I have gotten out to climb with Nick a few other times since then and each time there has been some sort of “adventure” involved. Here are a few gems from a Snow Canyon trip we shared:

(me trying to smile with a mouth full of pro-bar)

(nick managing the belay at the top of P1)

(eric, nicks housemate joins the party and hilarious times ensue)

(sent this one in to ProBar and they hooked us up with a box of free bars!)

(going up, generally speaking…)

(unfortunately I forgot to tell nick to tilt the camera so it would look steeper…)

(top of pitch two, and yes, that’s what SHE said)

(oy vey…shmear)

(creative camera work makes this 5.6 look 5.12 steep)

Nick and I and Danielle (my housemate for most of this summer) Also got to enjoy a bit of crack thrashing in the park itself- this one is called squeeze play and it was my first 5.10 on trad gear, so it was a pretty special moment for me. That said, I displayed all of the grace of a rhino giving birth. Anyone who says crack climbing is fun is a liar. Or a masochist. Possibly both.

(crack is whack!)

(only the first quarter of the route is strict crack; the rest is varied and fun and protects well)

(nick laying it back)

(danielle battling the wide section)

(the view from the top)

Last up are a few shots I took of the moon and Mars on the night when they were unusually close in the heavens.

(moon over the watchman, Mars to the right of the cloud formation)

(a clearer view)

(after that the clouds started rolling in, so I shot a few of that and called it a night)

More to come!!! (eventually)

Leprechaun 1, Stephen 0.

After another afternoon spent checking the sky in anticipation of the looming flash flood predictions, some opportunities for front porch photography availed themselves. Rainbows and late afternoon light on Tooele Tower (try and find the rock formation that looks like the headless Aunt Jemima).

Perhaps tomorrow will deliver the promised pummeling, weather-wise.


Flood season is upon us. A few pictures of the storm from this afternoon and the evening preceding it.

Moonrise over the Mt Johnson

The view from our driveway.

So this afternoon it finally rained. And thundered. I was able to catch a bit of lightning.

The Virgin river sort of flashed. It wasn’t raging per se, but when we tell folks hiking the narrows to “watch for a change in water color”, it isnt just a catchy turn of phrase.