Sunday, September 16, 2012

American Fork Canyon - My Favorite Choss Pile

This weekend, I had the privilege of participating in Bruce Wilson's American Fork Project. For the uninitiated, this is Bruce's adventure documentary that tells the story of the genesis of American Fork's climbing and its role in progressing sport climbing in the US. Bruce's Facebook page gives a very good description of his motivation in creating this documentary, why it's important to remember the developers of the area, learning from its history, and respecting the climbing area and community that supports the sport of climbing.

As we continue to be flooded with the dearth of internet climbing videos showcasing one's ability to crank hard, I felt compelled to give my perspective into the meaningfulness of Bruce's American Fork Project, especially as we come face to face with the consequences of climbing's growth. To bring some context into this perspective, I'm gonna start with a little introduction about my initiation into climbing and my cumulative experience climbing in American Fork Canyon.

I first got into climbing in 1997 while I was still in college. I was addicted to climbing, couldn't wait to launch a full-fledged assault onto any climbing wall I could get my hands on, and always hungry for the latest issue of Climbing or RockandIce cos those were my only sources of paparazzi news from across the pond. This was way back in the day, way before online climbing sites and blogs.

The stuff about climbing in North America was my source of inspiration and climbers like Boone Speed, Alan Watts, Scott Franklin, Jeff Webb, Dale Goddard, John Bachar, Lynn Hill, Todd Skinner, Robyn Ebersfield, just to name a few, were the stuff of legend. All the hype was about Smiths Rock, City of Rocks, Logan Canyon, Charleston, Potosi and of course American Fork. So imagine my excitement when I finally made my way across the Pacific for school at the U here in Utah!

When I first got to Utah, Jeff Webb gave me a tour of American Fork. We've met many years before when Jeff was a professor at the National University of Singapore, so it was a treat to have a local and a person involved in the progression of America's climbing, give me a personal tour of American Fork. As he went on pointing out the climbs at the different sections around the canyon, I could only marvel at the beauty and serenity of the forest and in awe of being at the base of some of the America's test-pieces. Well...ONCE UPON A TIME, America's test-pieces. As I spend the next couple of years climbing in American Fork, I began to realize that each climbing area and its climbing community inevitably become part of climbing's progression. As I spend most days with my wife mostly alone climbing at some sectors of American Fork, it's strange to imagine the hype it once received. Gordon Douglas, who was one of the early developers of the area, related to me that when the Hell Cave sector first went up, there were easily a congregation of 60 climbers. In contrast, it's mostly just me, my wife, with Gordon and Mindy this season. I guess this is exactly how crags are in the progression of the sport...the most hyped up places, the test-pieces of today, will become the warm-ups of the future and the chosspiles of yester-years. Nevertheless, we're grateful for all the pioneering effort, for if it wasn't for those dedicated few willing to equip the canyon, we wouldn't have such a privilege to enjoy such a sport and environment.

This brings us back to Bruce's documentary. Here, we have a guy who's passionate about showcasing American sport climbing pioneering history and what a climbing community truly is. It's simply about a community of everyday people, with day jobs, with classes to take in school, with kids, with dogs, with a spectrum of climbing abilities, getting down to their local crag at the start, middle or end of the day and simply roping up and having a great time. You're not gonna find a climbing flick flashing exotic locations, rock jocks pumped full of testosterone, takedowns of 5.15s and V16s, or 5.14 onsights. Even if there are, these feats will fall victim to the progression of climbing and become forgotten classics and warm-ups for the future generation.

So if you're one who thinks that American Fork is just a chosspile and that you're better off cranking at some exotic Euro destination, you may be right or you just may be a until the day I have the money or time to travel to some far out destination,  American Fork Canyon will always remain my favorite chosspile.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Matlab vs climbing

It has come to the point that I'm actually deriving greater enjoyment writing Matlab codes than climbing. As I continue to recover from my finger injury, I suppose typing on the keyboard can be considered some kind of therapy.

The summer heat continues. Strangely, Linus finally yielded today. Wasn't expecting to send in 90F weather. Moreover, I was all but ready to try out new beta in the event of another failed attempt. Oh...and I also want to mention that I started from the ground as opposed to a cheater stone or stump. Anyway, decided to call it 13D instead of the printed grade of 13C. This is done with mindful consideration on how hard the sum of its parts are, the difficulty in comparison to the other 13Ds on El Diablo wall (ie. Dead Souls, Cop Killer, Body Count), and time spent projecting it. There you have it, you're a sandbagger Mike!

This season has been quite a struggle, constantly shut down on moderates as opposed to previous seasons. On the one hand, it may be a prep for harder projects. On the other hand, I've pretty much been picking sandbagged routes this whole time, which may explain my predicament stalling on the "moderates" like Linus and Hammerhead. Anyway, just relieved that I can move on to the biz-nizz for the season...Cannibals Direct, originally graded 14a but now a 14b since James Litz broke a crux hold off a couple of seasons back. Hangdogged the climb today and concluded that it feels relentless right off the ground. And as if things couldn't get any worse, one's gotta pull the "bats out of hell" crux to clip the chains. This thing's gonna take a while.

Meantime, we're headed back to the Compound at Maple for Ling to send 9/11. It's great the fire's 100% contained and they've opened up the canyon again...otherwise, "death by turd" will  be the worst send-off Maple can ever get.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Heat is ON!!!

There's been a recent spate of wild fires here in Utah, Colorado and Arizona. Conditions are ripe for fires with the recipe of high winds, scorching temps, low humidity and absence of rainfall. Some of these fires, especially those in Colorado, are devastating. An example is the Wood Hollow fire in Sanpete county that burnt approximately 46, 000 acres. If you're reading this post, please note that a fire has broken out in Maple Canyon just this afternoon. Utah fire officials has labelled it the Dizzy Rock fire. Right  now the canyon has been evacuated with no access to any climbing area. Updates can be found on

Though the cause of the fire is still under investigation, friends on facebook has began speculating the cause as human...poor potty etiquette and negligent disposal of toilet paper. Anyway, super bummer for us cos I was psyched on returning to the Compound and Tanleng's super close on sending 9/11. Looks like it's back to AF this weekend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Love...a Subaru

We've finally gotten ourselves a car more suited for our lifestyle...a Subaru Forester. Gotta love a Subaru, especially a scooby nut like cost...$3900.

Our first weekend going off-roading out to the Compound, Maple Canyon. Terrain was pretty harsh unless you have a real truck platform...still much better than our Acura Integra.

There's always been a special place for a Subaru in my heart. Here's the Bugeye I had when we were still living in Spore...which cost $37000.

It's a shame we're broke now cos I'll love to doll up the Forester and pimp it up like these ones...

On a separate note, my 2012 climbing season has taken an unfortunate start with a ruptured A1 pulley on my right ring finger. Contrary to popular accounts of "popping", it kinda sounded like a carrot breaking when it happened. It's been 3 months since the rupture and I've been careful in nursing it. Been on the rope more than bouldering so the prognosis looks optimistic though it's not back to full strength yet. Having said that, I'm not banking on any super hard sends in American Fork this season. Meantime, we've been heading out to the Compound more than the Hell Cave...can't say it's been a joy cos I'm getting my ass handed to I needed any kind of reminder that I suck at cobble pulling.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When you hit rock bottom, the only way back is UP!!!

There were a series of events that prompted me to look back at what truly defines an athlete. Not one who goes on smooth sailing through life, bags the prizes, and basks in the adoration of fans. No. It's one who gets side-swiped by life, run over but gets back up and throws it down through the pain and odds.

One of these events is from this year's Tour De France. Of Dutch cyclist Johnny Hoogerland in a breakaway from the pelaton going for the stage win when he and Juan Antonio Flecha got side-swiped by a careless driver. Flecha received the major impact hitting the road at full speed but Hoogerland took the brunt of the crash, landing on a barb wire fence.

The aftermath of Hoogerland's brush with a barbwire fence.

Astoundingly, both Hoogerland and Flecha picked themselves up and crawled to the finish. Hoogerland received 88 stitches for his escapade and the win of the pokadot jersey.

Three weeks ago, I got to meet Noelle Pikas-Pace at the annual UAHPERD conference up in Park City. Noelle's a skeleton racer who competed from 2000 to 2010.

She won three medals at the FIBT World Championships with a gold and two silvers.
After winning the silver medal in the women's skeleton event at the 2005 FIBT World Championships in Calgary, she emerged as one of the favorites to medal at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Turin. That would change on October 19, 2005 at the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track in Calgary when she broke her right leg after she and her teammates were hit by a four-man bobsleigh that failed to brake after the finish line. The bobsleigh ejected out of the end of the track and hit Noelle and teammate Lea Ann Parsley, narrowly missing three other teammates. She suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula, and underwent surgery to repair her broken leg, including an insertion of a titanium rod in her right leg. Instead of quitting and wallowing in her predicament, she started aggressive physical therapy and returned to competition seven weeks later at Igls, Austria, finishing 20th.

In 2007, Noelle went on to win World Championships, by the largest margin in history, while breaking the track record in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and again becoming the first American Woman to obtain the title of World Champion in the sport of skeleton.

I know that most of us regular Joes wouldn't face anything this dramatic but we do get hit by life in our own unique ways. Take Tanleng for example. She had her foot dislocated and leg broken in Feb. When it happened, we just couldn't believe how she's gonna get back to normal function, let alone do the things she loves.

But in the end, we got it fixed...with two plates and nine screws.

Those months of recovery were tough on both of us. But through all the pain, pills and tears, she's now back in action. Recently, she sent a 12d and flashed a 12b in a day. 12s are usual fare now and she about to send one of the stoutest 13a in American Fork.

Strangely, we both now have the same story to tell with our right foot. Though I haven't broken my leg, I have dislocated it bouldering in SAFRA Bukit Merah in 1998. Had it fixed with surgery and was out of action away from climbing for a year. During that time, I was getting really good at Counter Strike, school and dating Tanleng. It helped that my wife, who was my girlfriend then, had so much love for climbing that I got drawn back into climbing. Progress came slow with an impaired right leg but it all worked out in the end. I started to love climbing all over again and got in shape at the same time. Very good shape....especially when it comes to bouldering. And when all the tertiary institutions like NUS, NTU and SP started their inaugural series of bouldering comps, I pretty much won every single one they put out.

Here are some of the hardware my brother randomly found in my storage stash in Spore. Don't really know where the rest are. Nevertheless, this is just a reminder that those years from 2000-2002, were my golden times as a competitive climber. I also got sent to the first Asian Championship for bouldering in 2001 and made it to the Finals alongside the usual Japs and Koreans. That was a proud moment.

And with every tide of success, there'll always be a lifespan for every athlete. Having a full time job took its toll but amidst the madness of work, I managed on last hurrah in the South East Asia Climbing Federation(SEACF) Circuit in Malaysia.

Jay recently reported on his blog that the SEACF circuit have been revived this year. Proud that he won the gold and that once again, Spore has a young and strong contingent.

Anyway, if you're reading this and you're in the pits of despair surrounding the circumstances of your situation, you just got to make up your mind about where to go from here. Remain in despair, or pick yourself up.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contact 2.0

The Demon have been serving me well and is my weapon of choice for outdoor sends...check, Big G. The Mad hommies were kind enough to send me a pair of Contact when I sounded to them that I was toying with the idea of having an indoor training/gym shoe so that I can preserve my Demon.

I received the new Contact three weeks ago and I've got to say that these puppies are a step beyond the ones I used to have. Let's not forget that the Contact were the shoes that got me up my first 5.14.

Lateralus, post send with the "old" Contact.

The technology that these guys have thrown into their new range is just staggering.

A look at the sheer quantity of innovation and workmanship of the new products more than convinces me that the new Contacts (or any other Mad equipment) will perform remarkably.

I also had an opportunity to contribute to Madrock's 2012 catalog with a written section on friction. It is a real privilege to be working with such a cohesive and innovative team.

The Mad hommies will be in town soon for the annual Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow in two weeks. Can't wait to check in and hang out with the Mad crew and sample the new products...oh, and did I mention that they have a new Flash in the pipeline? Can't wait...then check it out here!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Big G, 5.14a

The Big G went down yesterday!! This beast links the cruxes of Body Count and Cop Killer.

This one's legit, bitches!!!