Occasional postings about Maz and Si's big adventures

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Moonlight Buttress, Zion

Courtesy of Rita Rosenblum

So here is a little video documentary of our ascent of Moonlight Buttress, a classic aid route in Zion National Park, Utah.  Although it was only 9 pitches high, there was a lot of aid climbing so it took 2 days.  On the first day, we climbed up 4 pitches (I led my first aid pitch), before fixing our ropes and abseiling back down to the ground.  Snow and cold weather were forecast for the next day so that evening we celebrated my birthday with dinner and a few drinks.  On November 11th, we headed back to Moonlight to jug up our fixed ropes and finish the job.

Here's the story (make sure your sound is on):

The Early Morning Walk-In
Up at 4.30am, we racked up at the van and made our way to the base of the route, ready to climb as the sun came up.  Because we climbed this route over 2 days we had to cross back and forth through the icy river in the valley.  This was our third crossing and it hadn't got any easier!

Si Jumars Up The Ropes
When we climbed the first 4 pitches, we fixed one end of the rope to an anchor, abseiled down that rope, then fixed our second rope at another anchor so that we could reach the ground.  When we returned to the route we were relieved to find our ropes still in place and intact.  Next was the strenuous task of jumaring (prusiking) up the ropes with all our gear.  I went second and collected the ropes so that we could re-use them for climbing.

Top of Pitch 4
This was the only pitch that I climbed in the sun.  After that, it moved round the corner and I was left to slowly freeze in the shade.  If you want to free this pitch it goes at 5.12d  or E6/7 in pounds sterling.  Last time we were here, two gnarly women were working the route.  We encountered them again practicing the final pitches.  I hope they managed to put it all together in a full free ascent, if so I think they'd be the second all female team to do this.  Go girls!!

Maz Cleaning Pitch 4

Admiring The View
When Simon reaches the top of an aid pitch he fixes the rope and I climb up it, collecting the rope and the gear as I go.  This means that Simon doesn't have to belay - he just gets to sit there, admiring the view and eating Clif Bars!

Simon Climbing Pitch 7

At The Top

I was a bit too cold to feel much satisfaction in reaching the top.  Luckily Si's enthusiasm was sufficient for both of us!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Down Under

So we're a bit behind with the blogging.  Still got stuff to add - latest Gro a Fro pix (apparently it's all coming off tomorrow) and a little video documentary of our aid ascent of Moonlight Buttress, Zion.
The problem is - we're now  back in the real world with no time to blog - having arrived in NZ about 2 weeks ago.

So far we've bought a van, Simon has started work, I've started job hunting and we've arranged somewhere to live.  We're currently not living there - we have the unfortunate task of house-sitting a luxury pad (inc outdoor swimming pool and spa) in the country while the owners are away.  No internet though, so I've relocated from poolside to bring you this brief update.

Hawke's Bay is as green as N Wales, as hilly as Scotland (well, this bit's flat, but there's mountains behind us), as warm as Southern France, and packed with vineyards and fruitfarms.  The sea is blue and not too cold (wetsuit still required at this time of year) and about 5 miles from where we will be living.  Surf's good.

Mountain-biking close by is supposed to be excellent although our bikes are still somewhere on a cargo ship between here and UK.  Simon has bought himself an oh-so-cool single speed to get himself to work.  I did laugh when his custom-fitted white pedals turned bright pink in UV light (he's swapped them for glow-in the dark instead - the green goes with the wheel rims).

So, keep tuning in for more pictures and hopefully more adventures from Jones & Jones

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip©

World Exclusive on Keeping up with The Joneses: 

Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip©

Dr Curly
Best selling author of Climbing Injuries and How I Survived Them, and Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program, self-proclaimed climbing health expert of many weeks experience, Dr Curly, brings you his latest self-help guide.

In these exclusive excerpts from Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip©, Dr Curly shares with you some of his secrets. Available only online at the sensational price of $50!

Dr Curly explores the various ails and injuries that may affect you or your partner on that all-important climbing road trip. Examining the causes, symptoms and ways of avoiding the most common conditions in easy-to-follow sections such as dermatology and neuropsychiatry. Drawn from literally weeks of experience in the field, Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip© is a truly comprehensive guide.

Crack Climber’s Knuckle
This all too common condition affects not only the Neanderthal climbers amongst us, but anyone who chooses to climb a significant number of cracks. Forget those short Yorkshire struggles up mere metres of fissure, we are talking thirty metre plus splitters in places such as Indian Creek, Utah. You may scoff and sneer at those “soft” Americans with their tape gloves and funny ideas, but they do have a point. Omit gloves on day one “to see what its like”, and you will be regretting it for many weeks to come. Even when those initial grazes have turned to deep holes and you are now wearing tape gloves the pain will continue! Tape up now! Right now!
“Hand Jammies” (commercially available rubber gloves), are still cheating.

Aid Climber’s Finger 
Although not unique to aid climbers, this is a painful condition of the fingernails. Repeatedly bashing the fingertips leads to splitting of the nail down into the nail bed, and although not noticed at the time, will cause intense pain the next time you choose to wash your hands. Climbing in cold conditions will aggravate the symptoms. Making margaritas whilst suffering Aid Climber’s Finger is not recommended. Avoiding this condition is extremely difficult, but regular hand washing and the use of moisturiser will shorten the length of your discomfort. Or don’t go aid climbing.

Off-Width Epilation Syndrome
Ever wanted to know what it was like to be a serious road cyclist? Then peddle your way up some gnarly wide cracks in shorts, flimsy trousers or short-sleeves and you’ll soon find out. The patho-phsyiology of this skin complaint leading to hair loss on the outside of the lower leg or forearms is straightforward. Whilst wedging the aforementioned limb into a crack which will accept it, or nearly accept it, the process of either slithering upwards, or more likely, sliding downwards, removes the hairs. The first time is pain free and some may even be pleased with the results. The second time this happens however, the protective hairs are gone and the next layer down is skin. Much bleeding and the need for cold-washing your trousers follows.
Avoidance of Off-Width Epilation Syndrome is in the taping of the forearms for the truly serious (which comes with its own epilating problems), and the wearing of thick jeans. Indian Creek’s habituees seem to prefer work-man’s Carrharts.

Dr Curly already suffering from Off-width Epilation Syndrome and making things worse.

Rubber Shoe Foot-Rot
Rubber Shoe Foot-Rot is extremely common in the climbing community and related to the infamous Trench Foot. We’ve all suffered from that peeling, smelly, soft foot skin that comes with prolonged wearing of tight fitting, synthetic, unlined rubber shoes, without socks. Rubber Shoe Rot in its worst manifestation, for example on Road Trips, is resistant to all treatments, be they anti-fungal powders or creams, airing or washing of the shoes or regular foot care. Basically, get used to that smell.

Rappeller’s Hand 
This is similar to the sort of blistering seen in those who favour self abuse. Blisters appear on the palms of the hands, particularly the right hand, after repeatedly rappelling (abseiling). This is worsened by the use of skinny, static ropes which abraid the skin at a much faster rate than normal ropes. Avoiding Rappeller’s Hand is simple – walk off the route or wear gloves for rappelling, (something else those pesky Americans got right!).

Climbing-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CRCTS) 
CRCTS has only recently been described, in fact, by Dr Curly himself. This is a painful condition of the hands, usually both, which follows a day or two on a Big Wall. Symptoms include pain and pins and needles of the hands and weakness so severe that it can lead to difficulty opening twist-top beer bottles. As you are now realising, this is a very serious condition. Ensuring that your climbing partner is nearby when it is beer o’clock is key to limiting CRCTS’s effects. Other tactics include going to the pub and buying beer that comes in a glass.

Cam-Banger’s Thigh 
Cam Banger’s Thigh is a benign condition related to climbing or walking with a large rack of camming devices hanging from your harness. It is worsened by Big Walling. Cam-Banger’s Thigh is easily recognised as groups of small bruises on the outsides of the thighs and can be a cosmetic nuisance for the fairer sex.
Cam-Banger’s Thigh should not be confused with Thrutcher’s Thigh which is caused by climbing too many chimneys and off-width cracks.

Marian at risk of Cam-Banger's Thigh
Clif's Belly
During a Road Trip day time food may be limited to high energy "Clif Bars".  Although good for nutrition, they are not necessarily good for the digestive or olfactory systems.  A bloated stomach, gaseous eruptions and olfactory offense form the classic triad of Clif's Belly. It may contribute to Mission-fever (see below).
Avoidance of Clif's Belly is simple - Leave those Clif bars alone!

Pitcher's Elbow
This painful condition is one of the commonest causes of CNMS (see below).  Although Pitcher's elbow affects people who climb a lot of pitches, it is actually named as such because it affects baseball pitchers. The cause in climbers is too much cranking.
Prevention can be attempted with personalised wrist exercises and elbow stretches. Unfortunately Pitcher's elbow can strike at any time, manifesting as severe pain on the inside of the elbow. 
Treatment options include more stretching, straps, lubrication and massage therapy and stopping climbing.  However I, (Dr Curly), would recommend purchasing a large tub of ibuprofen, swallowing that pride, not pulling off the hard ones and settling for the some softer routes.

Climbers Non-Climbing Melancholy Syndrome (CNMS)
CNMS is a neuro-psychiatric syndrome and is the most serious of the conditions described in Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip©. It affects all but the least enthusiastic climbers when something comes between them and going climbing. CNMS will jeopardise the success of even the best planned Rock Climbing Road Trip. Symptoms can include lethargy, low mood, mutism, irritability and excess alcohol consumption. The latter can be difficult to identify from normal patterns of drinking.
CNMS has a complicated and varied aetiology. Causes include poor weather, poverty, compulsory sight-seeing and some of the other conditions described in Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip©. 
Prevention is the key in CNMS. Further research is currently being carried out to discover the most effective methods. Preliminary results suggest that when climbing is not possible, mountain-biking may be a promising strategy in CNMS prevention.

Post Traumatic Sending Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a persistence of the uncomfortable memories of a route and is a rare condition predominantly affecting women.
In contrast, Pseudo-PTSD (PPTSD) is a very common disorder and although relatively benign in itself can lead to the sufferer finding themselves in another uncomfortable situation on another route. PPTSD is characterised by amnesia of the cold/pain/fear or any other discomfort experienced on a route, usually a Big Wall. This leads the climber to attempt yet another long climb only to experience PPTSD once again.
When one partner is suffering from PTSD and the other PPTSD this can cause friction and jeopardise a successful Rock Climbing Road Trip. Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip© dedicates an entire chapter to prevention of this potential conflict. There may even be the need for outside help in the form of relationship counseling.

PPTSD/PTSD may not be apparent until some hours after the summit.

Mission Fever
Mission Fever is a Road Trip variation of the classic "Cabin Fever".  It is characterised by irritability and nearly always affects both climbers on the Road Trip simultaneously.  Mission Fever usually manifests after several weeks of living in close proximity in the "Mission Wagon".  Mission Fever is confounded by Clif's Belly and PPTSD/PTSD. There is a close association with body odour levels of the affected climbing team.  
There is only one treatment for Mission Fever - Go to Las Vegas and book into a hotel.

As you will have read from these abridged sections of Dr Curly’s latest bestseller there is plenty to worry about on your Rock Climbing Road Trip. The only way to avoid these concerns is to take action and purchase your copy of Dr Curly’s Guide to a Healthy Rock Climbing Road Trip© NOW! The first one thousand orders will receive a free copy of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program and a complementary chocolate camming device.

Iconic Route Bagged

The temptation proved overwhelming.... The skyline each night and each morning beckoned as we drove the short distance from the campground to the climbing in Indian Creek.  The Six-Shooter peaks stand there in the West, alone above the plateau of the desert, reminding me that there is more to climbing than one pitch cracks with bolts at top, however good they are.

So, after a few days of learning the ropes at "The Creek", it was time.  Lightening Bolt Cracks on North Six-Shooter the objective.  The first problem, the approach.  The Dark Star has fair clearance, but is not 4*4, and this mandated several miles walk in along the jeep road.  We didn't have a map, or any other further directions other than that there would (probably) be a cairn marking the start of the path up the scree to the base of the climbing.  Our luck was in, within 5 minutes of walking up the trail some jeepers stopped their pick-up and we rode in the flatbed for a couple of miles until they started driving in the wrong direction.  There's was the only vehicle we saw all day.

Amazingly there was a cairned trail up through various layers of steep sandy nastiness to the base of the climb proper, which we reached after another hour or so.

The first pitch is the supposed crux (5.11).  As has so often been the case in the desert, this proved to be misleading.  A couple of "thin hands" moves above bomber gear cleared the documented crux section within the first 10 metres of the climbing.  Sweet, I thought, as I cruised up the next section of "perfect hands".   Then came the "offwidth" (5.10).  Damn, no gear big enough and runout about 3 metres above my last decent piece.  The inevitable struggle and more bleeding and adrenalin followed.  But I made it to the first belay. 

The second pitch, again 5.10, loomed.  After cruising many routes of the same grade in the Creek it came as a shock to the system as after several aborted attempts of getting off a little ledge 10 metres up, using a "tips crack" (fingertips), I had to resort to jumping for a sloping hold within the crack system. I'm sure a six-footer wouldn't have had the same difficulties! Did I then just blast to the belay?  I wish.  A few metres up came the "fists" section.  Too big to jam, even with "cupped hands" and too small to put in a proper fist jam, I had to resort to torqued fists as I struggled through the overhang, heart pumping and hands hurting.

The last pitch, starting at the apex of a cool overhang, about 100 metres above the base, was the easiest, and most dangerous pitch.  Naturally.  All was well until the last 5 metres below the summit.  Some way above dodgy gear in increasingly sandy and loose sandstone came the infamous "squeeze" (5.9).  So there I am way above the last piece of dodgy gear wedged in this flaring bottomless sand filled chimney squirming my way towards the summit using every single muscle in my body.  I find it hard to describe how glad I was to reach the top.  Stoked comes close.

The summit was of course worth it....

Monday, 15 November 2010

Top Ten Climbing Road Trip Dodgy Smells

So the cold nights are drawing in and this means that we toast ourselves next to a wood fire every evening (sustainably sourced wood only of course).  Consequently, everything we own and wear smells of wood smoke. Luckily, as odours go, this isn't so bad and it does a good job of masking a myriad of other not so pleasant aromas to which we've become accustomed on this trip.

Here's our top ten of dodgy smells:

10. Sun cream. Greasy and full on, although we have smelt less of the factor 40 recently!

9. Climb On. More grease. End of day hand moisturising ritual. Climb On, Dude.

8. Peanut Butter Clif Bars. Having lived on these high energy lunchtime snacks for 10 weeks, the smell is starting to get a bit nauseous.

7. Big Wall Bad Breath. Can get a bit stinky by day 3. Apparently toothbrushes are too heavy for the haul bag!

6. Fear. You know the next pitch will be tricky when your partner starts pumping out this odour!

5. Poo Tube. The chemicals in the wag bags somehow make the poo smell worse! Luckily, this odorous item has now been packed away.

4. Bivvy Ledge. Always stinks! (See Living on the Ledge)

3. Si's Climbing Shoes. I know I'm close to the belay when I catch a whiff of these - it's just amazing how I can still manage to hold on!

2.  Unwashed Climbers.  It's time for a shower when you walk past other tourists and they smell clean!

1.  Eau de Van.  When you open the van doors at the end of a warm day,  the combined aroma of all of the above assails your nostrils!  Pretty Whiffy - thank god for the wood smoke!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Having a Cracking Time

With Simon injured, life in Moab was miserable! Our bike hire funds had run out and our passports were stuck in San Francisco so we couldn't escape. To make matters worse it had started raining. In the desert! Fancy that! We were forced to resort to the very British tradition of sight-seeing in the rain!

Then, we were rescued from depression by a text from Mike and Signe, the climbing Kiwis we had met in Yosemite. They were in town too. Over several beers we decided to escape the rain and head to Indian Creek - a place full of crack climbs - surely hand jams wouldn't hurt Si's elbows!
Mike and Signe.  They revived our climbing trip!

The next day as we drove south along the 191, the silence in the van was audible. Si was more miserable than ever. Now he wasn't just stuck in America and unable to climb, he was going to be stuck in one of the world's best climbing spots and unable to climb. "let's just give it a go" I said, "it's ok" he replied "I'll just sit in the campsite while you go climbing with Mike and Signe". Yeah, right. Like that was ever going to happen!

So here's some pictures of Simon not climbing at Indian Creek!
3am Crack
3am Crack, a little bit higher.

Really not enjoying himself on Pente
Crack Attack

Battle of the Bulge.

The thing is - I really don't like crack-climbing. No style or grace, it's hard to dance up the rock when all four of  your limbs are stuck in a crack. Plus it's really painful! Unlike Simon, I don't enjoy pain! But I was willing to stay here and learn because at least Si could climb here and was no longer living under a black cloud. That's love, that is!

So here's some pictures of me learning to climb cracks plus some shots of the rest of the crew!
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
We're Jammin'
I Hope You Like Jammin' Too!
Welcome to America.  Welcome to the gun show!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Gremlins in the Blog

Help - our blog has been hijacked by gremlins!

You probably can't read this as all the text on our homepage seems to be big and black.  If you want to read a post, click on its title in the side bar and it should appear in a normal size and readable colour!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Moab Mountain-biking Action

So… the inevitable has indeed occurred and I, (Simon), am injured. After much cursing about the lack of tourist facilities in Boulder Colorado, we have arrived in the world famous mountain-biking mecca of Moab in Utah.

Moab is the base for exploring Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and so is full of places to stay for tourists, bikers (both motorised and pedal-powered), “jeepers” and “ATVers”. All good really.

Perhaps a little less extreme than we had anticipated:

Maz reckoned the world famous Slickrock trail wasn’t as good as the routes at Kielder:

So they named this trail after the infamous McMoab of Seven Staines fame:

The Porcupine Rim is a downhill extravaganza of over 1000 metres vertical descent along a gnarly ridge line. So good I've done it twice and tomorrow I'm going to do it again:

The sweet singletrack on the upper section:

With no pads, and even less of an idea, I was taking it easier than usual. Maz's poor camera skills meant I had to do this three times.

The Sovereign Trail system. Designed by motorcyclists. They aren't too sharp when it comes to maps, so they painted a line on the rock so nobody could get lost.

What Simon and Marian Did Next

So apart from one posting, there hasn't been that much activity on the blog recently. Why is that? Try this multiple choice quiz to discover what Marian and Simon did next.

1. After Yosemite, Simon and Marian
a) got married in Reno and have spent the last couple of weeks in a budget motel room in Nevada.
b) got bored of climbing and opted to go on a package cultural tour of the US instead.
c) decided to go to Idaho, that US Mecca of sport climbing!

2. Soon after they arrived at City of Rocks, Marian and Simon
a) realised that the climbing was rubbish, returned to Yosemite, and have been stuck in a 5.8 chimney
    route ever since.
b) had to flee to Colorado to escape a storm and tornado threat.
c) Joined a Born Again Christian cult and are now living with an extended family in Twin Falls.

3. Simon and Marian decided not to stay long in Boulder, Colorado because
a) There was no camping accommodation except for a high level, damp forest that was miles out of
    town and inhabited by “Transients”.
b) their passports are at the Kiwi embassy, and therefore they did not have the appropriate ID to buy
c) Si injured himself on a poxy sport route in Boulder Canyon.
d) All of the above. 

4. Which bit of Simon is injured (more than one answer may apply)?
a) his finger
b) his shoulder
c) his neck
d) his wrist
e) his groin
f) his elbow
g) his other elbow

5. Unable to climb, Marian and Simon have decided to
a) go to Moab, a little-known mountain biking town in Utah, and hire full suss machines to partake in
   some slickrock action.
b) return to Newcastle and resume their former lives.
c) open a “Good Time Saloon” on the Nevada border to fund Simon's plan to retrain as a doctor in the

Surely you don't need them?!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Jones Team Take On The Incredible Hulk: High Jinks in the High Sierras

The Incredible Hulk
Giant, raging monster in the High Sierras

Alter Egos:
  • 11,120' mountain

  • colour changing
  • crack systems that increase in size as you ascend
  • rock hurling

  • Corner and splitter cracks

The Joneses
Mediocre climbing tag team

Alter Egos:
  • Dr Curly and the Mazter

  • harnessing the forces of friction

  • path-finding

We took a few days to recover from the Dr Curly’s Weight Loss Programme, gorging ourselves on American-sized portions of high calorie burgers and bbqs in Lee Vining. We were joined by two gnarly old timers - Spike, founder of Nevisport, and Stu Gallagher, an intrepid ex-teacher from Co. Durham. They regaled us with tales of far-flung adventure while taking doses from a gallon bottle of medicinal whisky (purchased, along with some pipe tobacco, from the pharmacy).

A heat wave descended on America and the High Sierras beckoned, so we took on the mountain mission to conquer a couple of high altitude adversaries: The Incredible Hulk and his henchman, Dana.

Third Pillar of Dana

Monday 27th September found us ready for action and dressed in our skin-tight merino wool costumes (amazing thermal and smell-reduction properties). We trekked in a predawn light through crispy frost up to the Dana Plateau. From here we missed the recommended approach and made a scary, scrambled descent to the base of Third Pillar of Dana. The sun had now risen and we had to strip off multiple thermal layers (my cold endurance training on Half Dome had been in vain). A couple of hours of awesome climbing followed. Leaning blocks, and layback flakes led to a spectacular final pitch which topped out on steep jugs. Thanks for suggesting this one, Pickles. Dana was dispatched and we were ready to take on the big one!

The next day we headed to the fishing resort of Twin Lakes and commenced the walk-in the Hulk. We made it through the RV park and aspen woods ok, but the usual Jones skill at path-finding then took us into a pine wood and led to multiple efforts to cross a river via beaver dams.

Once across the water, we hit the cairned trail again only to lose it once more on the scree slopes. Eventually we arrived on the plateau below the hulking mass. Here we found a veritable crowd of wannabe climbing superheroes camping out. Damn! Word about the heat wave must have got out!

Collecting Giardia

As the sun swung low, the orange Hulk turned a fiery red (when does it go green?) and we prepared our evening bivvy.

Early to bed and an early start meant that Team Jones were first on the route. Our plan was to attack the Hulk via The Red Dihedral. Pitch four was the crux – 30m of strenuous 10b corner crack. As Si made his way carefully up the Dihedral, the teams behind caught up and grew impatient, but once we were passed this pitch we soon regained our lead. The Joneses were the only partnership not to rest on gear on the way up!

Eight more pitches of great climbing followed, most in glorious sunshine. Then we reached the last pitch and the final challenge. Being a tunnel aficionado, I took this one on. Loose choss led into a dank chimney, which topped out through a small window in the rock. I had to perform a hip-dislocating frog-like manoeuvre to get through. Thank God I was wearing figure-hugging, Kat-style leggings. Amazingly, Si managed to squeeze his beefed-up Dr Curly torso through as well!

I made it through, but it might be a struggle for Simon!

Here he comes, will he get any further?

He'll make it! Good job he was wearing his figure-hugging ninja suit!

The Incredible Hulk had been defeated, but the battle was not yet won. On the descent, our glory basking lasted until we reached the pine forest and the light faded. Here, our trail-detection powers failed us. We criss-crossed the river and ended up in a swamp. As Si set a squelching course through the wetlands I called out “I don’t think this is the right way” “Neither do I” he shouted back “But at least we’ll get to where we want to be”! I stepped in to follow my partner in climb and squealed as I sank up to my knees in cold, muddy water.  As my shoes filled with oozing mank, I tried not to think about leeches and water snakes. If only we had the power to teleport!