Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Free Climbing in Shenandoah

I am in LOVE with Shenandoah Nat'l Park. Absolutely LOVE IT. So much in fact when I was on my way out of the Navy in 2011 I spent the last few weekends driving the 4 hours one way just to go climb and enjoy the scenery. I took as many people as would come with me. We would shoot videos and do some good beginners climbs for the new guys. While we worked off of Little Stony Man mountain I often looked at it and said to myself "I could do this with no ropes..."

Saying it once in my head was all it took. A few more trips up there and I finally said to my buddy Smitty. "I'm gonna do Little Stony as a Freeclimb." Now, I was already two everclear drinks into the evenings dinner, so Im sure he was chalking this up to one of my drunken delusions. When we got to the cliffs the next day and standing on the top. He said, "No way, I cant see the bottom, Im not climbing today."

The fog had rolled in and was blocking the view to the bottom approx 120' down. That just added more fuel to my fire.

I decided to rappel down and check out the holds on my way down.. worst case scenario I would climb using an autobelay and just do the freeclimb another time.

We were planning on shooting a skit video at the South River Falls involving some Thrift Store Three Piece Suits and a waterfall, so time was of the essence.

I rapped the 120' face down to the bottom and waited for Smitty to come down the trail and meet me. When I got to the bottom I got my mind right and decided I was going for it.

Smitty walked up and started filming.. the rest is history...

I will note that Smitty said "I stopped watching you halfway, I figured I would just hear the meat smack the ground if you fell."

Did I mention it was raining that morning?

Surv-Ex 2011

"Surv-Ex” Or Survival Exercise if you will...

A semi-annual adventure that I go out on with my friends, though, a few were unable to make it this year. My best friend Caesar and I still made the journey. Let me tell you the video does not do it justice. It was an absolute experience.

We start by hiking past Whistle Lake, then start on the goat trails that lead us to the summit of Mount Erie. We rappel over 1000' in sections. We were hoping to finish it before dark; pushing ourselves on the hike up to the summit burned us out quite a bit. As dark was drawing near we were moving as fast as we safely could to get down the side of the cliffs. We were unable to make it before dark and had to swim across Campbell Lake instead at night. We navigated the 42 degree water with our dry suits and fins while using out dry bags for buoyancy. We reached the island on the lake and then camped overnight with minimal gear.

We utilized our military training as well as acquired skills OUT of the military to perform our task. The toughest aspect I think that we dealt with was the size of our packs. Our packs were weighed down about 50lbs with all the climbing gear, ropes, dry suits and fins and other assorted gear. With the height we were working at the high winds presented to most real danger while we were working on the cliffs. Setting up rappels is old hat to me, but my adventure-mate Caesar was relatively new to the whole experience. You will see on the video how when he was on the edge of the cliff setting his first rappel up the wind is just KICKING around us. I was losing feeling in my fingers from the wind-chill even with the gloves on, he was stuck doing some sort of ‘iron chair’ hybrid move. He was nervous enough setting the rappel, much less having the added pressure of our rushed timeline, the height as well as the cold and high winds. It was certainly a ‘sporty’ day.

We did this one time a few years ago in the dead of winter. The conditions were much worse and we ended up actually losing one guy off the trip to the extreme environment. He was not capable of continuing, so we regrettably had to call in and extract for him.

I think what makes this a good time is the camaraderie that we have while doing this. It makes you rely on each other so much and it gives endless stories to tell around a campfire (even if it’s not one you had to use every ounce of ingenuity to start).

The next day we swam back for pick up at the edge of the lake.

Check the video out and let me know what you think!

More Survival Exercises coming up in the near future! Please let me know if you are in the area. Perhaps you could join us!

Here is a video from the summer when I did the hike and rappel on my own. When I was scoping out spots for the Surv-Ex.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Starting out.. Looking back a year... and forward.

Well, here is the start of something that I am completely unsure as to the direction it will take. I am hoping that I will be able to chronicle my lives adventures as best as I can.

So as it were, in order for me to tell you where I am going, let me show you where I have been over the last year...