The Gunfighter’s Ballad

Photo by Kelvin Pond @ponderosa0210

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a State Historical Site. To tell the truth, this blog post has already been written, by Marty Robbins. The story of our month in Hueco Tanks is exactly the same as his song “El Paso” to the letter! It began with a girl, whirling in a cantina, and ended in gunfire, and me, shot through the heart.

No, it’s cool, you keep staring, I’ll get my own shovel

There we were, a couple of young cowboys, wild as the West Texas wind. Dashing and daring, we parked the Rampage on our friend’s abandoned property, 25 miles outside of the park. Climbing at Hueco Tanks has been my dream ever since I first realized that I love roofs, and after years of failed plans to make this sacred journey, it finally happened. We received a warm West Texas welcome from a neglected pack of hoarse, limping dogs who came to yell WOOF at us as we explored our new haunted house. An extended family of pigeons exploded out of the roof, and behind the old water heater, a cat with no eyes patiently disintegrated. It was perfect, except for the 50 miles round trip to the boulders. After less than a week we moved to the Hueco Rock Ranch, the campground where all the other climbers stay, figuring that along with our mileage, our social situation would also improve. I rode on the roof, pushed the low-hanging power line up out of the way with a metal ladder, like you do, and we crammed the trailer into its campsite for the upcoming weeks. read more

Climb or Die Inside

Nachoclaws resting against a tree at Lost in Space. Image by @mikeloudman

More than yelling at nesting raptors, stomping on native plants, or even littering, my favorite part of climbing outdoors is recklessly assuming I know the story behind the names of boulder problems. I can see the Hulk’s face in the Happy Boulder, even though I’m certain Peter Croft just indiscriminately names everything ‘The (Incredible) Hulk.’ Clearly ‘Go Granny Ho‘ was FA’d by someone’s strong, slutty grandmother. We spent the last half of June and first half of July orbiting Lake Tahoe, and in the Lost in Space area, I found a project called ‘The Gerbiler.’ Deciphering the meaning of that name took exactly as long as figuring out how to start the problem. It’s a roof in a dirty, wet, mosquito-filled cave, so I thought, “Hey, gerbils are rodents, this is a gross cave…?” That didn’t make a whole lot of sense so I gave it up for the moment, assuming there was an inside joke I would someday be in on. While I was having trouble starting the problem someone yelled, “Feet first!” They were joking, but that always sounds fun, and I wasn’t getting anywhere going head first, so why not? read more

GIVE HIM THE CREAM.

At some point, we will hit a literal bump in the road, and our new camper will definitely break in half, our bed will smash down onto our heads, and we’ll learn our forever lesson about trying to live a life that makes us happy. Until then, we’ll just keep not taking the hint. Our maiden voyage, like most new things, felt a lot like trying to puke on someone else from a rollercoaster, but throwing up into the air instead, not understanding what direction your body is travelling through space, and slamming straight into your own floating vomit ribbons. read more

Fear and Loathing in Yosemite Valley; or: The Majesty of a Mud Pit

BRAAAP, BRAAA-GLORP. My bike came to a dead stop, sunk deep into the confusing embrace of mud. There’s nothing like not crashing your dirtbike for long enough to conquer a hill climb, only to find your riding buddies waiting with a camera pointed at you. This is not what I encountered at the top of this particular hill. Eli knew that if he pointed a camera at me, I’d either choke, or just avoid the giant mud puddle, both of which would bore him. So with no warning, already committed to my line, I pin it straight through the deepest water-filled rut in the mud puddle naively expecting only a gross shower. Instead, I had to squlorp my boots out of the deep mud, climb off of my dirtbike statue, and laugh until I cried. Luckily, there were 3 of us, so after taking pictures and gawking at my bike being held upright by the earth’s own hands (see below), Travis and Eli each grabbed a handlebar while I lifted and pushed the rear, extracting my bike with extreme efficiency. I attempted to roost all the mud onto Eli, stalled it instead, and then we continued ripping around the OHV area until we were all exploding bottles of bliss. We arrived back at camp to drink some beers and yell through our salty helmet hair about how that was the Best Rip Ever. read more

What does sending your hardest climb yet get you if not eternal glory? Not sure if I answered that, but I certainly typed a lot of words:

Read them here!

International Level-Up Day

“Their enthusiasm has no bounds, and therefore people born under the Sagittarius sign possess a great sense of humor and an intense curiosity. Freedom is their greatest treasure, because only then they can freely travel and explore different cultures and philosophies. Because of their honesty, Sagittarius-born are often impatient and tactless when they need to say or do something, so it’s important to learn to express themselves in a tolerant and socially acceptable way.” Hey, fuck off, you don’t know me! read more

Stay gold, Nachoclaws.

All human life is spent trying not to fail at any more things. Reassuringly, nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. So even she fails, and we get seasons. Failing can take infinite forms: burning food, hurting yourself, and letting everyone down. Generally, barfing is a sure sign of failure. You take a risk, you fail, and puke comes out. When walking into the boulders, hikers ask about our crash pads. With bright eyes we explain that they are for rock climbing, and they say, “Oh, in case you fall, I get it!” But there’s no “in case.” It’s inevitable, climbing is falling. I should say, “They are for falling off rocks.” Maybe you can’t identify with any of this because you’re not a walking train wreck, you have a shiny golden face, and all your wheelies are eternal, but you have definitely failed at something, and will most definitely fail at something else again. read more

#whatsadawnwall

If all those internet trolls wondered why Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson were wasting their lives doing something as useless as climbing the Dawn Wall, then boy are they going to be disappointed in me. There’s nothing like a glued-together cave problem with a drop-off finish in a world class bouldering area to make you question what the hell you are doing with your life. Fortunately, if you look into the cave with the right kind of eyes, you will find the definitive answer to soothe any existential crisis: Going sideways, to that glued jug, DUH. read more

More Like SLOWY Stitcher

When people say things like “retail therapy” the vomit starts a-flowin’. Maybe it’s because the idea of shopping to get oneself out of a depression is more depressing than just dying. Or maybe I like to exaggerate, sue me! HOWEVER, I like getting new shit as much as the next guy, and yes, sometimes I’ll go acquiring new shit if I’m feeling uninspired (ahem, injured). Of course, I can’t go buying things all the time because I hardly make any money. Besides, in the long run it’s boring and unfulfilling. Instead, I turn old pieces of garbage into new kinds of crap. To this end, one of the best tools I’ve ever purchased is the Stewart Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl. It is $15 and with it you can do amazing things, such as purchase something while depressed and then use it to create and modify yours, and others’ belongings with startlingly invigorating results. It creates a locking stitch, just as a sewing machine would, but it uses very strong thread and is able to easily pierce thick materials such as leather, foam, and hardened hearts. I’ve heard¹ rumors that it is the most fashionable way to sew a rhino’s horn back on, and I know for a fact that sailors use it to repair sails, and that people make HELLA leather knife sheaths. read more

Keeping the Romance Alive After 75… miles in the Mojave Desert

Above: The view from Radio Danger Mountain

GPS Track from Gunlock Reservoir Adventure Ride

Yesterday was our 3 year 3 month and 3 day anniversary of living in The Rampage, which we have totally been planning to celebrate on purpose, so we went on a dirtbike adventure date! We packed the GPS, towels, 6 liters of water, snacks, swimsuits, and rode out of Moe’s Valley, across the desert to end up at the Gunlock Reservoir. The idea was that we would sneak up on the reservoir from the back side, and not have to pay the state park fee. Sadly, the only picture I took the entire day was the one at the top of this post, so you will have to suffer my use of Imagery (and possibly stolen photos) from here on out. read more