Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Pitch or a Problem per Day - Psyched!

From my Mountain Project Profile

Sure it's loosely defined, but I'm pretty psyched that I'm over 365 for the year. Since I only tick "sends" the actual number is much higher. Leading Congrats with Matthew was the lucky number 365 for the year, and there are still 9 days left!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

WAGG Day 20 - Goes 55-58

Well, this week was certainly better than last week. Aside from having a big day on the route (4 goes) I figured out some micro-beta that will help me further down the line.

On the first go, I was feeling pretty strong, but as I was reaching to the crux the rope obstructed the first side pull - the TR is starting to hold me back I think.

On later gos, I learned how important a finger's width is on the soapdish. Sometimes the move off the Gaston feels solid, and sometimes it feels questionable. The key is to move the hand one finger to the right(?) from what feels natural.

Such a good route!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

WAGG Day 19 - Goes 52-54

In preparation for writing this entry, I took a look at the last two WAGG reports. I've been stagnating lately. This stagnation is the result of obvious reasons (excuses) which makes it somewhat tolerable and justified, but still frustrating and disheartening. Most of October I was either sick, or busy, or both. This meant only one night of action on Whiskey early in the month, and not much training to make up for the lack of physical presence. I spent the first day of November at Necedah, and took three goes on Whiskey. I think all of those goes were either two or three hang efforts on TR - not exactly progress, but hopefully the kick in the ass that I needed to spur me to better effort. I'll be back next Sunday and hopefully will see some improvement.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Advice I'm Glad I Took (and wish I would have taken more of)

Regular readers know that I'm a middle-aged husband of one and father of two. My wife and boys are the most important things to me in the world. Because they're important I have real job that provides a steady income, but only gives me three-weeks of vacation (I'm lucky at that!) per year. Honestly, I would love to spend that time almost entirely on climbing trips, but alas, I get about twelve weekdays per year to go on climbing trips - not a lot. I was just flipping through the forums over on Mountain Project. I noticed one for Ride Offered- Boulder to the Valley Leaving 9/6, and when I saw it, I felt a nostalgic little tug at my heart.

I was lucky enough to live in "The Valley" for two falls when I was a still a college kid. All-told, my ticklist from that time is rather unimpressive. Though I did have a blast, make and cement lifelong friendships and learned more about myself by sleeping in the dirt than I could have ever imagined. The climbing was amazing, and I truly became a much better climber during my time there, but the climbing exists almost as a footnote when viewed from a dozen-plus years later. After I returned from my second excursion, my full-time adult career started - climbing, and adventuring in general, took a necessary sideline.

So, onto that advice. If you're young, and you can, do it now. "It" might be climbing in the Valley, backpacking across Europe, paddling the Inside name it. Do it on the cheap, but do it now. Adulthood has a way of popping up quickly and once it does; it is usually here to stay.

If you wait for the perfect time; you will never go. Don't ask yourself "Why now?" but instead ask yourself "Why not now?" and "If not now; when?"

Go and cast yourself into a great adventure - its lesson and memories will soothe your future.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

WAGG Day 18 - Goes 50-51


Negative progress. I met Seth up at Necedah after work last Friday. I took a pair of goes on Whiskey, but neither was very impressive. I was lazy the entire week before and can't say I deserved much more than I got. Anyway, I'll be psyched to get back up there and give it another go (or three) soon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

WAGG Day 17 - Goes 47-49


Jay and I went right back to Necedah after Friday's attempts. We had a huge crew there, and we got a lot of climbing done, although most of mine was done on Whiskey. I took a total of three goes this time, and they were very encouraging. The first was a TR go that took me to my highest point yet from the ground, falling only 2-3 moves from the top - I was psyched. A while later I decided to give it a shot on lead, and went bolt-to-bolt after the first 2-3 bolts. The third and final go of the day was another TR go, and I made it within a move or two of the top, bettering my earlier go. It was heartbreakingly close, but it would have to wait. I tweaked my left pinky a bit on this last go, and I plan on taking a break from Whiskey for a couple weeks - hopefully I don't lose too much.

Friday, September 18, 2015

WAGG Day 16 - Goes 45-46


Jay is back in town for a bit and we snuck up to Necedah for the evening. I took a couple TR goes on Whiskey. The first one of the night I climbed through the crux to a new high point from the ground. My core felt solid in the crux, so the shift in training regimen is paying off. I used the rest of that go and almost all of the next to try some new beta between bolts four and five. The beta I've been using is a little scary on lead because my feet were getting all jacked in the rope above bolt four. The potential new beta is promising, but it needs to have the kinks worked out.

Monday, September 14, 2015

WAGG Day 15 - Goes 42-44


It has been more than three months since the last time I was on Whiskey. I spent the summerr away because humidity sucks for hard rock climbing, and I was doing so much cardio getting ready for the Tetons. It was good to get back on the route last Sunday, I took three real goes on the thing, all on TR. I managed to one hang it on TR again, so at least I haven't lost anything since June.

The route felt good, but my core gave out in the crux, my arms and fingers felt solid, so its core focus on the training plan from here out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Psyched again...finally!

It has been about 3.5 weeks since I returned from Wyoming, and the trip must have taken more out of me then I thought. I haven't been able to get into the habit of training and I've only gone climbing a few times. I've been slowly trying to get myself back in the groove, but it's tough. I've been catching up on work and family obligations and there is only so much energy to go around.

Last night I made the drive down to Madison to meet with some friends to watch Meru and while I was there I made plans to go to Necedah this weekend and get back on Whiskey. Some combination and the re-aligning of my sight on an old goal was just the right recipe to get me back in the mood to train. Since I returned from Wyoming, I've been training but it felt forced. Last night I was psyched driving home and almost went out to the shed at eleven o'clock when I got home, but decided to wait. This morning I did a quick session of deadlift/campus intervals...I was psyched and it felt good!

By the time I get to Whiskey on Sunday, it will have been over three months since I was there last. I think I've given the route 43 tries on fifteen different days since last August. I don't know when or if the route will go for me, but I know now that the weather is improving and autumn is here, that it's time to try again...hard.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwin' it Back to "Living the Dream" Last Summer

Last summer my good friend Phil and I went on a climbing trip to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. You can revisit that post if you'd like, or you can just enjoy some of the photos set to music in the video below.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Quick Note from the Tetons

I've been in the Jackson area for a little over 24 hours now. I landed in SLC Friday night about 10pm Mountain. Jon picked me up at the airport, and we drove for a few hours before crashing at Allred Flat Campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The next morning (yesterday) we finished the drive in the morning, and checked in the American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch (GTCR).

The weather was questionable at best, Jon wanted a nap after a long week of working the Outdoor Retailer Show - I wanted to breathe some thin air and get myself a little acclimated. So Jon napped while I carried a light pack to the Lower Saddle and back. When I got back, we had dinner and spent some time hanging out in the GTCR Library with the other climbers staying there. Sitting around the fire, swapping stories, looking at photos from a Liberty Ridge trip. Sitting in that room, surrounded by stocking-footed (no shoes allowed in the library) climbers and artifacts from well-over a century's worth of climbing I felt I was surrounded by close friends, despite only knowing one other person in the room. One of climbing's greatest strengths, and pulls for me is the community of people it brings together.

This morning Jon and I were both slow to rise from our bunks, but the fog was slow to lift from the valley too - so it didn't matter. Mostly it's been a slow day of resting, eating, and getting our kit put together for the next two days. We plan on starting up Teewinot tonight around 2am en route to do the Grand Traverse over the next two days. We had hoped to get a warm-up route in beforehand, but the weather looks questionable later in the week - so we'll use the two days of good forecast to go for it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cross One Off the List!

I love Thoroughfare, and I have loved it since the first time I climbed it on a top-rope close to a decade ago. At that time, if anyone would have asked if I would ever lead it, or any 5.11 trad route for that matter, I would have told them they were crazy! Even my considerably bolder early-twenties self would have thought leading 5.11 on gear was unlikely - I just did not have the mindset, commitment, or process that I do now. Latching the jug you see me holding in the picture below, is the result of over a year-and-a-half of hard work, dedication and commitment to a process. Two years ago this was an impossibility, and last night it became a reality - it won't land me in any of the mags next month and #Thoroughfare won't be trending on Twitter anytime soon, but I accomplished a goal I was not even aware that I had until recently and considered impossible up until a few months ago. There is no secret to doing this, and I really believe anyone can do it...set a goal, create a plan, and work the plan. It will take sacrifices along the way, but that moment, where you blow so far through any prior expectations you could have conceived of for yourself, is worth every bit of sacrifice along the way - the smile on my face speaks for itself.
James Schroeder, hitting the jug at the end of the difficulties on Thoroughfare (5.11a) at Devil's Lake - Jay Knower Photo

Thursday, June 11, 2015

WAGG Day 14 - Goes 40-41


It's been three weeks since the last time I was up at Necedah, and truth be told, I had pretty much written Whiskey off until the fall when conditions came back around. But when Charles texted me last Saturday to see if I'd meet him up there last night, I couldn't miss the opportunity. A couple days later Nate texted to see if I wanted to meet up and I told him to join Charles and me.

I'm on TV!

A few weeks back I helped my boss, Nick, at Devil's Lake Climbing Guides, out, by doing a TV spot for WGN. I have to admit that I look pretty silly in the few cameos I make and the speaking role I have at about 1:24..."I'm never more at home than when I'm right here in this place. [Unless of course I'm being filmed, then I'm not at home at all.]"
When I see myself in the WGN piece I can't help but think of this:

Friday, June 5, 2015


I was just looking over my last few posts, and there were a couple in a row there that might be taken as glorifying soloing, and maybe they do, but ultimately they should not. Soloing is a dangerous activity, with all, or virtually all, of the marbles on the line, mistakes can, and do, kill soloists. A quick perusal of the statistics section of the American Alpine Club's annual Accidents in North American Mountaineering (ANAM), will show you that the number one contributory cause to climbing accidents is "Climbing unroped" - climbing without a rope is dangerous.

The point is this; no one should climb without a rope, but people do, and sometimes they fall and die, or become vegetables, or quadriplegics - that is the reality of soloing. If you're even considering whether or not it's a good idea, I can tell you that it isn't. While it's not a good idea, people still continue to do it for any number of reasons, and on a wide variety of terrain - hopefully those people have carefully weighed the risk vs. reward and made their decisions based on years of experience.

If you're a new climber and soloing seems enticing, realize that you probably don't have the experience to make that judgement, or get yourself out of trouble if it arrives. If you're under 25, then you don't have a fully-developed capability for parsing risk vs. reward. In other words, if you're young and new to climbing you have absolutely no business soloing.

Okay, that's my two cents for the day...carry on.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Last Night

I had a great night last night! Spent a few hours teaching an awesome group of clients how to rappel, then got a few laps in on my Balanced Rock Wall circuit, and then met my buddy, Matt, in the CCC parking lot for a beer.

It was one of those amazing nights at DL as the video below will attest:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Only Blasphemy

I don't normally like to poach and repost content, but this video has been out for a few years now, and the article it's based on was originally published over thirty years ago. I prefer the raw version of the original text (which can be found here), but Rock & Ice also published in print the more sanitized version (found here) used to narrate the short film embedded below.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some of the best days...

People tend to avoid climbing on days with bad forecasts like they tend to avoid hazardous material spills. While the latter of these avoidances is generally a good decision, the former is least not at Devil's Lake. At the Lake, spring, summer and fall storms tend to be short and intense, but clear quickly - some locals have speculated that this is due to the Baraboo Range's tendency to "split" storm systems. I am no meteorologist, but I have witnessed this strange weather pattern firsthand in the past, and have come to believe in it, if nothing more, as a useful heuristic to get me off the couch and out to the bluffs.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

WAGG Day 13 - Goes 37-39

05/21/15 (weight 178.2, AMRHR 52)

We had to put our beloved dog, Jenny, down today, and I needed to get out of the house - so I headed up to Necedah to meet Nate and drown my sorrows with a few goes on Whiskey. It was a nice evening, maybe a little warmer than ideal for climbing, but great temps for just being outside. At the end, while cleaning the anchors, I was treated to the beautiful sunset below.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Quick Note From Friday Night

My good friend Eric came met me after work for a few hours of climbing last Friday, we wanted to tick a few pitches off, and here's what we did:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Climber's Party Photos

Mike and Melissa hosted the Annual Wisconsin Climbers' Party again. This year it was held in conjunction with a WCA event at Devil's Lake. A good time was had by all, and the event was a success. Here are a few photos I snapped during the party:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WAGG Day 12 - Goes 35-36

05/13/15 (weight 180, AMRHR 56)

I snuck up to Necedah for an abbreviated session on Whiskey on Wednesday evening. I took a lead go and a TR go. The lead go was bolt-to-bolt, I was psyched about this, because at least I was able to commit to the heady jackness between bolts four and five. The TR go was decent too, my second two-hang of the route on TR.

At this point, I think wiring the bottom (up to the big pinch) and top (above the mail-slot) are on the docket. The climbing in both of the sections isn't particularly hard compared to the rest of the route, but both sections need to be climbed efficiently to allow for the fight in the middle.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Coming Full-Circle on a Magical Night at Devil's Lake

It has been about twelve years since I have gotten paid to go climbing (which in my case usually means getting paid to build anchors and belay - not pull down). I loved guiding when I was in college - it provided me with a great avenue for sharing the skills and knowledge I had acquired, put me in generally amazing work environments, allowed me to meet a bunch of cool people (my wife included) and gave me the opportunity to really build my skills by having to know them so well that I could teach them to a variety of people in a variety of circumstances.

About six months ago Nick Wilkes, owner of Devil's Lake Climbing Guides, and I were introduced through mutual friends. Nick and I began a conversation that led to him hiring me on as a part-time guide. I helped him out for the first time on the night of Wednesday, May 6th - it was a blast working with clients again, and I look forward to more of the same as the season goes on. As fun as guiding was, the highlight of the night came after I said goodbye to everyone in the parking lot. With gorgeous temps (and 0 pitches to my name for the evening) I grabbed my shoes, chalkbag and headlamp and ran back up the Balanced Rock Trail for a few quick solos.
The night was amazing, perfect temps, a light breeze, the stars, the moon. I did five quick "pitches":
Balanced Rock Wall is the perfect place for this kind of thing, if one is so inclined. Fun climbing, low cruxes, and easy access.

Heading back down the trail on a perfect spring evening.
Walking down the trail in the dark, the climbing behind me, the talus still radiating the now-faded sun's heat and the warm breeze on my skin...all of  it, lit only by the small cone of light from my headlamp...I felt a deep a peace, a sense of place, and reverence for all that surrounded me. I felt in sync, if only for the briefest of moments, with the world pulsing around me. In that moment, life was not a struggle, or a race, but perfectly-natural, and easy - the whole universe was properly ordered, everything, including me, was in its place. The stars twinkled in the vast, unending sky and I touched eternity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WAGG Day 11 - Goes 31-34

05/02/15 (weight 179.2, AMRHR 56)

After last Friday's encouraging progress, I couldn't wait to get back up to Necedah for another go (or four) at Whiskey.

After three lead goes and a TR go at the end of the day, I wasn't able to match my effort from last Friday, but I was pretty happy with my ability to make the first few clips repeatedly on the lead goes. On lead the route will break down into the following three cruxes for me:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

WAGG Day 10 - Go 30

04/24/15 (weight 179.2, AMRHR 44)

I drove up to Necedah on Friday after work to meet Charles and take a few quick burns on WAGG. To warm up, Charles led Tower Route while hanging draws, we pulled the rope, and then I led it with the draws in place. Then we hurried to the top of Y-Crack Wall and set a top rope on WAGG. Charles rapelled the line and I followed hanging draws and cleaning holds.

Conditions started to deteriorate almost as soon as Charles tied in for his first go, and they weren't any better by the time it got to be my turn. So, in a full rain, I tied in for a go  of my own (the route overhangs 10-12 feet, but the wind was blowing mightily) and found (mostly) dry holds up to and through the crux. For the first time ever, I climbed from the ground through the crux and fell a few moves above. I ended up two-hanging the route on TR, and doubt I would have sent if conditions were better, but I might have been able to one-hang it instead. I topped out in a full rain, cleaned the TR setup and rapelled to the ground. It was the happiest I had ever been in the face of failure and bad conditions. I was, and still am, incredibly psyched. Up until Friday, I was feeling like I had lost some ground over the winter, so the huge progress I made was exceedingly welcomed.

I cannot wait to get back to Necedah again. While a lead of the route is probably still a ways off, it feels like a real possibility. From here on out, I hope to leave the TR behind and make each go a lead go.

Monday, April 20, 2015

WAGG Day 9 - Goes 28-29

04/18/15 (weight 178.6, AMRHR 60)

I managed to get up to Necedah for a pair of goes on Whiskey over the weekend. Nothing special, I feel like I am stagnating on it a bit and need to change the training strategy around. It feels like I need more core, more forearm endurance and more general power endurance work away from the cliff. It also feels like I need to make a more reasonable pyramid up to the route, and climb some stuff a few grades easier. Maybe it was just a high-gravity day and I need to reengage...regardless, it felt a little stale on Saturday.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Utah in Photos...Mostly.

Jay and I had been planning a trip to Utah for about six months. We have been there together twice before, and on each of those trips we got our butts kicked for a variety of reasons. The reasons that immediately come to mind are; an overloaded station wagon starting on fire, both lead ropes getting core-shot halfway up Spaceshot and a general malaise/lack of motivation that neither of us can seem to shake when in the state together. Despite all of this, those two trips remain some of the most memorable of our lives and served as the basis for what has become an important friendship existing in the space beyond the carefree days of youthful climbing adventures in what has become the (occasionally all-too) real world we both inhabit in the present-day as adults with lives beyond the cliffs.

Morning Alpenglow on the Six Shooters

During those first two trips, our youthful exuberance was our biggest asset, while our corresponding inexperience was our biggest liability. We thought we would give it another shot and let our older, wiser and more experienced selves have a crack at it. We thought it would be different this time...we were wrong. In the end, we adjusted our agenda to meet some unforeseen circumstances, re-visited some prior epics, shared some laughs and climbed a few good routes - all things considered (it is Utah after all) we had a good trip.

Monday, March 23, 2015

WAGG Day 8 - Goes 25-27

Jay was in town last weekend and he coaxed me into a day at Necedah (the coaxing did not take a large effort on his part). I was psyched, but tentative about getting on Whiskey after a long hiatus over the winter. I had been training, but not enough, and did not want to feel like I had gone totally backwards on the thing. I decided to put a top rope on the route and see how things went. I took my time rapping down the route; cleaning holds, hanging draws and trying to remember all of the route's intricacies along the way. As I descended familiar holds triggered faint memories of the movements that would link them, my muscles twitched in anticipation and my mind slipped easily from its chaotic wanderings into a calm and focussed state. I have completed each of the movements to link all of those familiar holds. Taken as individuals, or even as pairs none of them is too difficult, but stacked, one-after-the-other, for fifty unrelenting feet, with virtually no chance of rest - well, one comes to understand how a candle can melt without ever having its wick set aflame.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Opening Weekend at Devil's Lake - March 7-8, 2015

The weather over this past weekend was amazing! On Saturday, I met Matthew shortly after noon at the CCC parking lot, and we headed up to the East Bluff for an afternoon of fun in the sun. It was a little chilly in the valley, but by the time we made it to the top of the CCC trail we were sweating. The sun was out, the rock was warm and we were psyched.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hope on the Horizon

Which horizon you ask? The 10-day forecast I reply.

Intellicast is calling for great weather in Baraboo next Friday-Sunday (March 6-8). Sun and temps at or above the freezing mark. If this forecast holds it will be officially rock climbing season at Devil's Lake. I am writing this for myself, I need to believe.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Winter of 2014/15 (so far)

So far it has been a mediocre winter for climbing in southwest Wisconsin, and real life has kept me from traveling too far afield since my trip to Jackson Falls over Halloween weekend. A quick check of my records shows only forty "pitches" in the last three months, more than half of which were laps on the short waterfall at the head of Cox Hollow in Governor Dodge State Park. I have been doing a lot of running, lifting, skiing and training on my campus and finger boards, but that is a weak substitute for the real thing. The ten-day forecast does not inspire any confidence either, and I think I am coming down with a solid case of cabin fever (despite seventeen-odd miles on skis and/or foot and about 400 feet of climbing in the last week).