O’Rourke sends Slasher V13 and D’Anastasio sends Blackout V13
Watch the footage curtesy Onsight Visual Media by Sean Morgan. O’Rourke hopped on Bambi V11/12 and sent it, hulk style.
Todd does these trips, and we can never believe what he’s been through. It’s a cross between Great Gatsby and Indiana Jones. And he does it all for fun. Read on:
My wife, Donette, and I just returned from our third trip to the Central American country of Belize. Like the previous two trips, our goal was to create more climbs that could be used by Belizean adventure guides for instructional and guiding purposes. We arrived in San Ignacio, Belize on Christmas Eve, after traveling from Joshua Tree via Las Vegas and Cancun, Mexico. Like the three wise men (even though there were actually only two of us), we bore Mad Rock shoes, harnesses and quickdraws for the Belizean guides.
On Boxing Day we met up with one of our Belizean guide friend, Diego Cruz, and headed off to a new area between Belize City and the Belize capitol of Belmopan. We drove into a huge farming operation and then transferred from the SUV into a trailer on the back of a large farm tractor. We were then taken about 1.5 miles out through the fields to the end of the road at the edge of the jungle. It was still incredibly muddy (the rainy season had just ended in November) although they have an excavator working on the road digging drainage ditches on each side to ultimately dry things out.
By April the road along the fields will be well drained, rock solid and passable by SUVs. As we neared the end of the road, we entered an area of karst formations. There were dozens of them within 100 yards of the tractor road, all with exposed cliffs (photo from the tractor at right).
We then hiked out an initially bog-like trail for about a mile up and down some very steep hills. The local farm workers had spent three weeks chopping this trail thru the jungle in anticipation of our arrival. We eventually dropped down into a valley filled with mosquitoes, caves and cliffs. The valley was ringed by limestone crags up to 150 feet high and in one corner, a huge arch and a subterranean tunnel (round like a lava tube, but clearly formed by water). This tube was roughly 200 yards long with the bottom being flat soil so that you could walk its entire length without effort. There were plenty of bats and at the entrance we saw a small non-poisonous snake. The valley had great rock and given enough time, 100 or more routes of all grades could
be done here.
We then set to work establishing some routes. I first started up a slightly left-leaning groove that while overhanging, looked to be moderate. About 15 feet up, I placed a bolt in a huge block that seemed to be solidly attached to the cliff. As I was pulling past, the top of the block snapped off, placing two toaster-sized chunks in my chest. Donette darted out of the way as the rocks slid past me and impacted the ground where she had been standing. The climbing above was strenuous (especially placing the bolts), but on top rope afterward, not nearly as bad as it had seemed on the lead. We then got some bolts installed on a superb 5.10 route before calling it a day.
I was pretty pooped from the heat and humidity, making the hike up and down over the steep hills back to the trailhead a chore. When we reached the road, we learned the tractor had broken down, so we walked about an additional half mile through calf deep mud until the farm workers arrived with a Mule ATV to take us back to our car. A shower while quaffing a Belikin stout got us ready for some Chinese food and the end to another day of climbing in Belize.
Each day of the trip was pretty much the same – up at 6am; to bed at 9pm with a whole lot of sweating, panting, grunting, cursing and laughter in between. On the 27th we climbed a very cool line up a large free-standing tufa (stalactite). Once I got it completed, a local guide and one of the farm workers who came in with us followed the route. The farm worker, Hayro, was overjoyed at the opportunity to climb and quickly ascended the route wearing rubber boots (not surprisingly, his nickname among the farm workers is “chimpo”). On the hike out we saw several coatimundis. These critters were scampering up and down trees like jungle cats (we didn’t realize they climbed trees). The first day we hiked in, Donette caught a glimpse of some spider monkeys passing thru the canopy.
One of the best parts of each day was the ride back to the car in the Mule ATV. We sat in the back seat, holding onto the grab bar as we plunged thru mud holes and over bumps. Anytime we gained some speed we were peppered with bugs. It was very much like a ride at a theme park, but for real.
We got two more excellent routes done on the 28th, including the second best climb we have yet done in Belize (an overhanging 5.9 on perfect rock; photo above).
After four days at the backcountry crag, we moved to a cliff closer to the road that would be easy to access with groups. Donette, Diego, Hayro and I spent the day on rappel removing loose blocks and dirt (surprisingly, we only uncovered one scorpion). The cleaning revealed a fantastic face for guiding and beginner climbing.
We returned to the guiding wall on the 31st. The only difference from the previous day was that it poured upon our arrival, soaking everything and making the rest of the day “steamy.” We removed lots of debris from the base of the escarpment that we had knocked down the previous day and the farm workers felled a gigantic dead tree that was near the cliff. Portions of the dead tree were turned into benches in the clearing below the crag.
On the way out, the usual muddy areas had increased in size as a result of the rain. The combo of a 20 year old driving and excess mud provided us with a late evening archaeological project as we were given the opportunity to unearth the Mule. It takes some effort to bury one, but the driver succeeded. The front right portion of the buggy was completely submerged in mud the consistency of cake batter. With brush stuffed under wheels for traction and a log as a lever, we eventually liberated our transport and made it back to the farm. Prior to the “dig,” we would have been about as dirty as we had ever been. With the added layers of mud spattered all over us from the aggressive ATV driving and rescue effort, we can safely say it was the dirtiest we had been in all of 2012!
As we drove from San Ignacio to the job site on January 2nd for another day of construction, the sky looked grim. Mucho mud appeared to be in our future.
The drive from the farm to the trailhead was treacherous, as the rain had made even the once stable dirt slippery for the Mule. Both Donette and I were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t get stuck on the way in.
When we arrived at the cliff, it was sopping wet and the clouds overhead made it look like it would stay that way. Despite the gloom, we started work, hoping this was our last day on the project as we were sick of mud and wet rock. By mid-morning, the sky had cleared and the rock immediately started drying. By lunch, the cliff was dry and our mental state much improved.
Diego and Ricardo (one of the farm workers) worked on the center portion of the cliff all day. This was the last remaining section that needed extensive cleaning under our previous “Plan A.” Because there was a continual shower of debris coming down in that area, Donette and I decided to clean an area on the right side of the face to see if we could get in another line. I swapped off with Hayro excavating dirt, chopping brush and cleaning holds. By the end of the day we had
uncovered the best route on the cliff. It goes through two big overhanging sections on gigantic jugs that make for fun but not too difficult climbing (5.6).
By the end of our fourth day there, we had nine routes cleaned and bolted that are perfect for guiding. Combined with the other backcountry routes we did earlier on the trip, we established 16 climbs at the new area (more than any other single area in Belize). The guides and landowner were very pleased and asked that we return in April.
Bearcam Media captured this ascent last year of Zach Lerner in “Wolverine Land”, a.k.a. Lincoln Lake.
Learn about D’Anastasio as a climber and a human being when we talks about his life, climbing, and the climbs he did in Bishop.
Professional athletes Michael O’Rourke and Megan Mascarenas both dominated the highly-anticipated Yank N Yard competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico last weekend.
Here’s the video from Stone Age, and one from the ABQ Journal.
Both are a part of Team ABC – “America’s Best Climbers”. Team ABC posted podium shots here.
Yank N Yard is 16 years running, made famous by Stone Age Climbing Gyms’s innovative & flashy final format.
Finals is a different spectator event than most: finalists traverse hanging bouldering islands lit by psychedelic lights and vibrating beats.
Here’s Michael and Megan both finishing their final problem (that’s great setting of the part of the setting crew):
G2 recently went to Belgium’s Antrecup at Antrebloc. See the GREAT photos by Melanie Sandoz at her gallery here.
Here’s our favorite photo:
Read about the wide-range of problems on G2′s bilingual bloggy here.
Visit the MadRockBlog to read more athlete posts >> MadRockBlog.com
Tomoko Ogawa just sent Catharsis V14/8B+.
… I never gave up. I kept on trying for three years for something that seemed impossible in the beginning.
“I am surprised of the big reaction in the media. I am not a famous climber in the world..maybe nobody knows, and also I was among the last in the world cup every time. I am not a strong climber in actuality. My previous best was two 8A+ and one day I got an impossible DREAM of doing an 8B+. When I tried Cathersis the first time, everyone said it was impossible for me because I had not done an 8B. But I never gave up. I kept on trying for three years for something that seemed impossible in the beginning.”
ClimbingNarc posted a link to the poor Google Translation of her blog. The words are so jumbled, you may consider it poetry.
It doesn’t matter whether your bag is rock, ice, alpine, seven summits club, top rope. If you guide people from terra firma into the land of the vertical, you are probably varying degrees of the same personality.
Most of us got into it for one reason. We love climbing. Once you are in the throes of it, you’re a goner. Some do it for love, some for money, some for fame and recognition. From the outside, the life of a guide seems exotic and adventurous, like Thailand – but for those of you who have ever really known a guide (ladies, you especially) it is a gritty, dirty, and hard world. More like Bangkok, than Phi Phi. For those who don’t think so, you you have never done it full time.
Jaded you say: hell yes, I am jaded. You see enough people die, get divorced, or deal with career threatening injuries. When you start guiding, you feeling like Elvis, and by the end you are struggling to notch the belt buckle over your silk jumpsuit and get through Viva Las Vegas without having a heart attack.
I have seen a 16 year old kid fall 300 to his death, and had to tell his father; I knew a guide who told his wife of 3 years, via text message on Everest, that he was sleeping with a repeat client of his for the past 2 years; I have seen strong guides struggle with chronic injuries related to their profession.
I know it seems as if I reek of gloom and doom, but it hasn’t always been this way. I have seen climbing break, weld, and mend brotherhoods, sisterhoods and families, and allow autistic and special needs children accomplish things they never before imagined they would do. Watching a client labor and struggle one step at a time up a hulk of ice, to stand on top, and even if just for a passing moment, feel invincible… These are the reasons I do it.
It is about freedom, it is about climbing, and it is about guts that I guide. It is about being empowered on the inhale and getting humbled on the exhale. It is about love and mentorship fueled by perseverance and tenacity.
This is the life of a guide.
At ten years old, Derrick Logan was a tall, deep-voiced oddity.
In fifth grade he transferred to Soulsbyville Elementary where my small group of friends instantly welcomed him. We loved Derrick. He had a sweet bike with pegs and a 19 year old brother who could obtain various forms of after school contraband. Derrick’s brother was also a fairly accomplished rock climber – a detail that transformed him into a heroic woman-seducing daredevil.
On the first day of seventh grade the bell rang its second and final warning as we gathered outside home room. While shuffling towards the door I accidentally stepped on Derrick’s toes. Anticipating a smack to back of my head, I cowered; Derrick turned and moaned in pain. Releasing his hands from the injured foot, he bashfully revealed an effeminately bright, tightly laced, aqua-blue shoe.
Earlier that day, Derrick’s dog had urinated on his sneakers, and his brother had loaned him a worn-out pair of climbing shoes. The ridiculous-looking pair of blue slippers sparked a conversation, about his brother, who fearlessly conquered mountains, high school parties, and girls. I was surprised when he agreed to let me wear them.
A week later I struck him deal that landed me six old quickdraws and a set of stoppers. Four month’s allowance produced enough money for a climbing harness. And I scored my first rope: 40 meters of chopped up garbage, sweetly salvaged from the Yosemite Mountaineering School.
My father had climbed a route three years prior, with the guidance of an experienced friend. Somehow, this single ascent made him the all-knowing expert.
Neither of us knew what a guidebook was, or even that rock climbs were documented with names and grades.My father aimlessly drove us to the summit of Sonora Pass. After 30 minutes of debate we decided to tackle a 25 foot right-facing corner near the road.
At 12 years old I weighed less than 80lbs so belay equipment was deemed unnecessary. With my father’s bare hands clutching the lead-line, I slowly ascended the corner while placing stoppers into shallow pods. An hour later I reached a small ledge where I walked two circles around the trunk of a small pine tree. With the friction from the tree Dad lowered me down hand-over-hand.
A fine line separates encouragement from child abuse. Although good intentioned, my father always walked that line without restraint. Later on, equipped with some proper gear, we attempted our first multi-pitch route: the 900 foot Regular Route of Fairview Dome in Tuolumne Meadows. We might hold the record for the slowest ascent of this formation. After 39 hours and a t-shirt bivy at 9000ft we stumbled into the road. Fifteen years later I can still remember the brilliance of the watermelon we shared in the parking lot that night. I can feel my toes in those clunky blue shoes. And I can picture my Dad, wrapped in the climbing rope for warmth drinking dirty water out of a pothole atop the dome, thanking me for bringing him there.
My wife Donette and I spent two weeks exploring the country of Belize for climbing. We brought this through security: a power drill, 150 bolts, 40 rappel anchors, two ropes, 10 quickdraws, and Mad Rock shoes.
The following account details our first 48 hours in the country:
Our first stop was at a jungle resort that appeared to have fantastic limestone cliffs, and the resort manager and a local employee Ishmael went with us to investigate.
An hour of machete work got us to one of the cliffs, then we ran into an Africanized bee hive. Ambushed! The first sting came on the tip of my nose, followed in quick succession by many more.
That afternoon we found a bee-free crag, near an established trail.
The next morning, Ishmael went with us again; he went to work with his machete clearing the base of the cliff. Vines hung down the face, and there was dense brush above, so we rappelled first to clean things up before climbing. I led up a chimney, using trees for protection and vines for holds.
Ishmael followed using the tied-off rope as a handline. He then (sans rope) chopped his way down to the lip of the cliff and cleared it of vegetation. Ishmael then tossed down his machete and lowered hand over hand down the single strand climbing rope with no belay wearing rubber gardening boots. Several times his feet cut loose, causing him to swing wildly out into space like a madman. Despite our belief that he was crazy, he made it to the ground safely.
Our first order of business the next day was to lead the two routes that we had established. The crag was in the direct sun and as hot and humid as a summer day in Georgia. I led the harder route first, and when I lowered off, was completely drenched in sweat and had to sit in the shade to cool down. I then led the other route, a 5.9.
Back in town, our first stop was at a pharmacy. We were covered in bug bites and oozing sores from contact with poisonwood trees. Those trees emit a black sap ala X-Files that creates itchy, oozing sores…similar to a bad case of poison oak.
After stocking up on jungle salve and hydrocortisone, we started driving to our next climbing site.