Monday, December 27, 2010

Living for the Moments

Hope the holidays treated everyone well. I know for me it was a crucial time to decompress from the craziness. Here is something to help psyche up for the new year. The Camp4 Collective produced this piece in June. Its was cool to shoot for a concept on this one and really dive into the heart of the experiences we all love. As always thanks for checking it out! ~reo

--we did shoot Honnold on the Nose without a cord on the pancake fake after this was released...stay tuned for the directors cut with that stuff spliced in! Read more...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chad Dispatches

Hey All, I just got back from one of the most remote and wild expeditions to date. We carefully logging all the footage to hopefully share at mtn film fests this spring. Here a few video screen grabs and little wrap up from the adventure. You can follow the entire backlog of such posts on The North Face Blog.
From the moving jeep, during the ride out:
“Expedition Time Distortion”: I think this could describe what the whole crew is experiencing at this point out here in the remote Chadian desert. Although we have only been gone for a matter of weeks, and it probably seems like a blink of an eye to all those back home, to us it truly feels an eternity lost in the endless sea of unclimbed sandstone, micro barbed picker grass and roaming camels.

Despite the looming homesickness, today the moral is high. We convinced Piero, our tireless guide, to go for a final hail mary quest to the most remote part of the region to check out what seems like the most inspiring formation from our research: a tower/arch that we have deemed “the delicate arch” of the Ennedi. Piero is skeptical of the whole journey after the incident with the knife bandits (see dispatch 4) and tried to ward us off from the idea: “You know there are vipers and cobras in camp-- definitely maybe!!” Even though we will only have an afternoon and morning worth of water to explore the location before have to turn back we all agree it’s worth it.

More 4x4ing through the heat and we arrive at the objective. It is even more inspiring than we could have possibly imagined: a helix of two spindly towers ~160 ft tall connected by a tiny arch that truly resembles Canyonland’s famous Delicate Arch!

With our limited time the team quickly sprung into action and headed up the talus cone in the brutal midday heat to scope the line. Each side had distinct cruxes of chossy unprotected slabs or decomposing cracks. Eventually Mark and James decided on the slab. The rest of the day was spent battling for protection in the decomposing sandstone. At one point Mark tried to place a bolt and it was so loose in the hole he had a double stack pitons around to make it even remotely passable as protection. Jimmy, Kempy and I scrambled around trying to document the madness we could here James cursing after Mark relinquished the lead: “Its like bloody Caster sugar up here, after you break the outer surface the rest just explodes, #(*)&#@#&!!!”.

Feeling a bit antsy at the base Alex took matters into his own hands and went for the kamikaze onsight free-solo first ascent of the crack up the other side. At this point it was a free for all with time running out to find a way to the summit. “Here you go dude, take this wireless mic,” I suggested and he clipped it on. After sending half the formation I could hear his breathing elevate with is knee stuck in a wide crack unable to commit to a loose flake transfer. Displaying good judgment and some extreme skill he carefully retreated down the lower tech face as we all watched clenching our teeth. Darkness set in James and Mark also decided to play it safe and descend, hoping to get it done with an alpine start the next morning.

During the night as the climbing teams rested for the morning we stayed up most of the night documenting a moon-rise we will never forgot: The nearly full moon rose directly behind the arch and tracked a perfect path slitting the formation. For the Camp4 Crew this was a mind-blowing coincidence for us to be able to share the beauty of this place. We ran 3 timelapses through the night, one on a motorized Kessler dolly tracks to add another layer of movement to the tracking stars and moon. I have to say it was kinda gripping scrambing around wondering if the aforementioned snakes might be lurking under any rock.

Before sunrise the games began again. James took the final leap of faith. I’m sure the details of his moment with God will come out in his and Mark’s own detailed descriptions but all I have to mention is that Mark could barely force himself to belay the pitch. If he fell he would have ripped the entire pitch including the anchor...

After some victory screams he brought up the rest of the crew for some truly feel good moments. Its so rare that in this day and age that such iconic first ascents are still a possibly. Looking out over the expanse of rocks and village life below it was an unsaid realization how special this experience has been. . (The Arch of Ba-Chikele)

Our time here is coming to a close. By Marks’s vision of putting this adventure together, Piero’s 20 year knowledge of the landscape/people, Alex and James’ bold summit leads and the Camp4 Collective crew photo/video efforts we all hope to bring back a greater understanding of the Ennedi to share with those back home. However haggard, diarrhea ridden, sand caked, starved and exhausted we all may be there is no doubt we are vastly grateful for the experience and the opportunity to be the first to climb in this remote region.
Cheers from the whole team out here in middle of nowhere! ~reo Read more...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Moonlight Dreams, Zion National Park, 2010


I’m about 800 feet up Moonlight Buttress, one of the most classic and iconic big wall free climbs in the world, at the crossroads between a dream and disappointment. This world famous route has been climbed no falls, first try only a hand full of times, and it’s looking like I might be joining the club…but I’m starting to bonk. I’m seeing spots and to emphasize the thread I’m hanging by, my left forearm cramps when I clip into the anchor…Not Good!
I unlock my hand from it’s clenched, clawlike position and pull some clif blocs out of my pocket. I chase a couple blocs down with the last of my water, and then lay my head against the thousand foot tall, red sandstone cliff for a moment, waiting for the calories and electrolytes to do their job. There are only a couple more 5.12 pitches to go, but with no idea what to expect, and very little in the reserve tank, I know that a free ascent is far from in the bag. This is probably the best multipitch sandstone climb in the world and to walk up to it and climb it without falling has been a dream that I’ve entertained for some time, but deemed highly unlikely. Some really great climbers have come one fall away.

I do have experience on my side, I tell myself. In the last five years I’ve spent a good deal of my time in Indian Creek near Moab Utah, a downright mecca for sandstone crack climbing. During my time there, I repeated countless hard cracks and even put up a few testpieces of my own, and with each day in the creek, I got a little more proficient and a little more in tune with the subtlety and some times pure thuggery of climbing these unique parallel sided “Splitters.” “How are you feeling,” my fiancĂ© Nelissa asks me, snapping me out of introspection.

I lift my head slowly from the wall. I can feel the blocs and water doing their job. I slowly open and close my swollen hands without them cramping! This is encouraging! I quickly organize my gear for the next pitch and then with renewed momentum I set off. I practically jog up the vertical finger, and before I know it I’m twenty feet above my last piece, and looking at a huge fall, but I’m feeling pretty locked in!!! The last hard pitches are a blur. Nelissa Yells up words of encouragement, and I climb beyond my ability, an experience I’ve had before on big climbs. “You’ve come this far,” I tell myself, “Now it’s time to be at your best.”
As I move up this huge majestic wall, almost outside of myself, I am overcome by a wave of pure childlike joy. I’m thankful for my rope and think of young Alex who climbed up here without one. I love the desert, I love climbing, and this is as perfect a moment as I could as for! “WOOOHOOOOOO” I yell as I clip into yet another anchor.
And somehow, through a mix of good fortune, hard work and years of experience, I stand on top of Moonlight Buttress, without a fall! I couldn’t be more psyched. Nellissa and I share a clif bar and then head down the trail, with thoughts of burritos and margaritas luring us on!!!

A couple of months ago I had the extreme pleasure of repeating Moonlight as a free climb. Moonlight buttress is probably the single best sandstone bigwall freeclimb in the world and to manage to scrap up it first try no falls was one of the highlights of my year, and sharing it with my bride to be made it even more special. Read more...