Patrick Betts: Blog en-us Adventure Thru Lens (Patrick Betts) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:55:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:55:00 GMT Patrick Betts: Blog 120 80 The North American Clip Ups The North American Clip-Ups

]]> (Patrick Betts) Canmore Climbing Climbing Adventure El Potrero Chico Ha Ling Infinite Bliss North Bend Rock Climbing canada mexico Sat, 27 Feb 2016 15:00:00 GMT
Hostel Living Is Supposed To Be Fun, Not Hostile HIHonolulu LandscapeView of Honolulu from Diamond Head It was finally time to embark on our adventure down under. Mollie and I planned a fair amount and saved up even more to get ourselves to the land down under and bum around. We spent 10 weeks in Denver, painstakingly, at jobs that caused more stress then they did fulfillment. But we kept pushing through, telling ourselves that “soon, we will be doing exactly what we want to do – every single day.”

That statement is a big motivator for us. So when we had the opportunity to have a planned 1 ½ day layover in Honolulu, we chose to take it. Why not have a little vacation before our vacation!

We hopped on the number 19 bus that leaves the Honolulu Airport and rode it for an hour and fifteen minutes – to go 10 miles. We crammed ourselves in a tight back bench of the bus and sat while we stopped and stopped and stopped some more. We could not be any more excited to get to our hostel, Pacific Ohana Hostel. We needed a rest from the holiday travels and needed some time to get our last minute things organized before we went international.

Our stop finally arrived so we grab our things and hopped off and went to find our hostel. We turned down Lemmon Road, which resembled more of an alley way then a street, and saw in the distance some international flags. We walked towards them but when we got underneath them, they were not outside our hostel. We double checked the address and backtracked to our building.

From the outside you wondered if you were walking into an international hostel or an inner-city slum; you wondered if you were getting the chance to interact with other foreign travelers or contract some sickness; you wondered if you made the right decision.

We found a manager, checked in and then he took us up to the 3rd floor to show us our room. As we walked up the circular outdoor stairs we began to take it all in. Instead of passing young and active international travelers and trying to guess what language they were speaking we were passing tired and old degenerates and trying to understand what mumbled words came from their weathered and worn bodies. We got to our room number, where we had the semi-private room (i.e. the bedroom of a 1 bedroom apartment) and others slept in the bunk room we were attached to (i.e. the living space of a 1 bedroom apartment). He showed us the room, we obliged by saying that it would do and then a red flag occurred. He thanked us. Profusely and with relief – an odd insight into this place of business. As if no one says yes. As if no one had made it this far and agreed to stay here. As if all the people staying at this hostel lived here and no one agreed to stay here as guests. We agreed, though.

The manager left us and we were finally alone in our room. We closed the door. Locked it (something I have never felt necessary but I felt was pertinent in this establishment). It wasn’t until we were laying on our old and outdated mattress for the first time that we stumbled upon the reviews. They did not disappoint and it was if we were there with the authors as they commented on the lack of hospitable accommodations, the abnormally high number of bugs in the rooms and the can of Raid that was issued with your key (to be fair, we weren’t given that can of Raid when we got our key. Our room already came stocked with one). We knew we made a mistake in staying here but frankly there was nothing we could do about it. We spent the next day and a half spending as little time in that hostel as possible. We could not ask for our money back for they had a strict no refund policy (I wonder why?) and at $70 a night, it was just a bit too much to leave behind and find a new place to stay.

It was quite the adventure, to say the least. Even one of the numerous cockroaches in our room found its way into our bag and into the Sydney International Airport. We came out of it alive, with all of our things still in our possession and didn’t contract any communicable diseases.

And in the end, isn’t that what all adventurers want in the first place? An adventure that doesn’t end in some sort of communicable disease? I would be hard pressed to find anyone who did not agree.


Until the next adventure.


]]> (Patrick Betts) Australian Adventure Hawaii Honolulu The Eternal Season Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:24:53 GMT
The Siege "'We have fortified our stronghold! We will barricade ourselves inside! We will not budge!'"


"The shouts of the soldiers ring loud through their fortified stronghold. The siege has lasted 12 straight hours with no respite in site. The men sit, covered underneath their fortress. Their eyes stair intently upward as if the ceiling would suddenly do something amazing. No such incident occurs. Just the consistent and unrelenting barrage from the enemy...."

"It has been nearly 24 hours since the men were forced to hold up inside. Morale is being slowly drowned. They only dare to step foot outside their enclave for necessary needs for the risk of being ambushed is too great. The end does not seem to be coming. Hope is weeny. The men begin to wonder if they will ever get to see their paradises again: those feelings of warm embraces; the air beneath their feet; the views. All these hopes and dreams seem so far away now."

"In the middle of the night, a sound awakens the men - the sound of absence. There is no tumultuous sounds of enemy barrage. They bolt up in their cots. They stare hopefully at the walls and ceilings but they do not dare go, or even look, outside for the risk of defeat is surely guaranteed. The men lay back down and continue to blankly stair at the ceilings. 'Maybe in the morning,' they ponder hopefully, 'Maybe....'"


"With the rise of the sun comes yet more defeat for our worn and weary soldiers. The siege has taken a great toll - greater than one could have expected. The men have gone stir crazy; cabin fever has set in; some have dared to think of waving the embarrassing white flag of surrender. It is when all their hopes are nearly beaten into the earth that our Hero emerges."

"The men have begun to wonder what had happened to their bright and wondrous hero. The hero had been absent since the beginning of the siege. Many thought the hero had died, others muttered words of treason, treachery and switching sides. The hero held within itself the lifeblood of the men; the ability to muster their strength and raise their morale. Surely, with the return of their hero, sure success was in the future...."

"The men wait through the night in hopes that at dawn their Hero would rise with mighty strength and vanquish their dark enemy. The men would rally underneath their Hero and victory would be theirs! As dawn approaches, the men grow anxious. The sounds of onslaught are absent. 'Could this be it? The end is surely here!'"

"The men grow brave with the thought of victory near. They ventured outside their fortified walls in hopes to catch site of their retreating enemy. But to their dismay, the enemy was not vanquished; it lay still beyond the trees and mountains. Their Hero is no where to be seen but the un-endless attacks have ceased...for now."


"The men huddle together. They try to formulate a plan. They are uneasy with moving forward without their Hero. 'But their is no barrage of enemy ammo! We must move on,' musters one brave soldier. 'Yes, this is true but our enemy still exists and without our hero defeat is nearly guaranteed.' These strong words of a well-traveled soldier struck hard with the men. They all hope to live to live another day! Our men decide to not push further as the risk is too high. Instead, they work on expanding their fortified refuge, tending to their wounded and increasing morale."

"As evening of the third day draws nigh, hunger is beginning to set in . The fact that no ground was lost yet no ground was won is welcomed among the camp. They spend their evening eating, drinking and being merry. Yet, each of our beaten men know deep inside that the fight has yet to be won and that tomorrow is another day...."


"The day broke on the fourth day of the siege. The soldiers drearily and pessimistically wake to begin the day. One by one, the men stepped outside their fortress of safe-haven and their eyes needed to be shielded - for their Hero had arrived and banished the foe beyond the mountains! The men rejoiced as their sanity has been saved! The men gathered their gear and eagerly and excitedly, as with a new passion, ventured out in the wilderness to conquer new heights. Our soldiers have lived to live this day!"



It rained for three days straight. We were at the mercy of precipitation. It was tough. We climbed, fantastic climbing at that, on day one but were held up in our car and under our tarps after that. The sun never showed itself for two days straight and barely came out for an hour on day three. It was a rough three days, needless to say, but when the morning of day four rolled around we had nothing but splitter (read amazing!) weather in store for us.

The weather forecast was known. We knew to expect rain for the weekend. However, when the only things you want involve being outside all day in dry weather - rain is the relentless enemy you hope to never have to face. But we survived. We battened the hatches. We lived to climb another day.



Written on September 6, 2013 by Patrick Betts

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Climbing Adventure Rock Climbing The Eternal Season Written by Patrick Fri, 13 Sep 2013 20:26:41 GMT
The Ghost River We finally were on the home stretch. We had only 40Km left - now only if we knew exactly how many miles that equaled! The directions were pretty straightforward: "head out on the 1A until you hit the junction with 40. Follow 40 through ranch lands until you hit a sharp right turn. After that turn, turn left across a cattle guard and follow to the end." Simple enough? After a rough last 10 miles, we had finally arrive at The Ghost River.

The Ghost RiverThe long but scenic approach to the Silver Tongued Devil wall

The Ghost River is this amazing wilderness area with limestone cliffs on either side of a 300 foot wide river basin. Amazing views with a out-in-the-wild feel. This was the place I was excited to be the most and we finally arrived.


We slept in the next morning. That past 2 days of traveling had really taken it our of us so we elected for a later start to our first day of climbing in The Ghost. We were going to climb at the Silver Tongued Devil wall - a beautiful 400 foot tall limestone cliff. All the routes were 5.8-5.11, bolted and up to 4 pitches in length. Perfect.

Heidies and Hilties (5.10b)Mollie on pitch 3

It turned out, however, that our approach ended up being twice as long. Partly because of our lack of knowledge in Km-Mile conversion and some not-so-accurate guidebook info. Either way, the 4x4 road that meandered the river basin made for quick walking but it never seemed to end. By the time we arrived at the base, we had been hiking for 2.5 hours and roughly 4 miles. After a short break to allow our legs to breath, we geared up and started up our first Canadian climb.


"Heidies and Hilties" (5.10b, 4 pitch) was a great climb. Good pro on consistent and sustained rock. Awesome limestone texture with great position above the river basin. You could not ask for anything better. We elected for an early day as we both were exhausted from the long haul in so we packed up and hiked out.

The Ghost River






Day 1 was done. The rock was amazing; the approach long. This is what is in store for us here in The Ghost: Adventure waiting to happen.



Written on September 5, 2013 by Patrick Betts

]]> (Patrick Betts) Canada Climbing Climbing Adventure Rock Climbing The Eternal Season The Ghost River Written by Patrick Fri, 13 Sep 2013 19:38:50 GMT
The Many Facets Of Joy      Everything was planned out. Everything was considered, weighed, and decided upon. Except by me. A now comical mistake born of naivety and perhaps a bit of laziness tossed in. it didn’t seem like a problem at the time. Hearsay declared the approach short; the climb easy; the descent not noteworthy.  So why do research, i.e. work?

Early Morning StartEating food and gathering gear before the 10+ hour day ahead

     The watch blared it was 6 am. Still dark out, I simply stated “No.” and did not get up until 7am. After getting in around midnight the night before, I was not prepared to get up so soon. My climbing partner, Patrick, and I decided to sleep in the parking lot at the base of our climb after much fruitless searching for campsites. Pat was up before me already making tea and feeding our two dogs. I got up when I noticed sunshine and joined the hour-long process of getting ready for an upwards of 10 hour day.

The scree field



     For once, hearsay was correct. The approach was 20 minutes on an easy, wide trail. One fit for bus loads of Canada’s finest senior citizens to enjoy. As a bonus the trail wandered next to a lake surrounded by gorgeous peaks, we found a cairn and thus the day truly began. It was poised beneath a huge talus/scree field. “What is this garbage?” I thought. Perhaps I should have done my research… An arduous 40 minutes later after going up the wrong direction, we had arrived.


                Looking above us, 2000 feet of slab beside a dihedral simply called “Joy” stretched seemingly forever.  The dogs would hang back as usual. This place didn’t seem busy and there were acres of lakes for them to drink from and play in. Everything was set so we began. Pat leading the first two pitches, being ‘easy’ (as described by the guide book) and the next 5.4. The two pitches went well, smooth climbing, very few necessary gear placements, nice ledge-y belays, and awesome views. Except something wasn’t right. It took getting to the second pitch belay to see there were huge water streaks coming from the dihedral’s corner and spilling out ten, fifteen feet. Exactly where we were supposed to climb. Decision time. Great.  More responsibility, i.e. work. To climb or not to climb. I think that’s how the saying goes. To not climb meant down-climbing those two pitches and scrambling back down the talus field defeated, frustrated.  To climb meant risk, uncertainty, adventure. We decided on the latter. We’d come too far, right? Or, realistically, we were far too stubborn.


I gladly took the sharp end as I absolutely love slab climbing and am quite comfortable on it. Hearsay strikes again as the route stands up to its name. We were using a slick 70 meter rope to its ends, placing only a couple pieces of gear each pitch. You could just go, forever.  Every so often you could follow perfect hand cracks away from the dihedral, traversing back and forth as the mood struck. Every other pitch beheld a roomy ledge for the belay and the view got better and better the higher you went. Turns out we were completely surrounded by mountains and alpine lakes. The day was described as ‘splitter’ with not a cloud in the sky. We summited with no problems 6 hours from our start.


                The summit turns out to be a razor-back ridge: the slab we climbed on the west side, a sloping scree field on the east side, with no discernible exit. Well, poop. Research. The descent turned out to be a terrifying traverse across the east side for 150 meters followed by another half an hour walking slanted alpine meadows dotted with a thousand burrow holes. Snakes? Marmots? Should have researched the flora and fauna. Bears are a given, but what else calls this place home? If you keep walking across the meadows it is said you would hit a now closed hikers trail. But we were tired, impatient, eager to collect the dogs. We took the first meadow-y gully that looked like it went straight back to the starting trail. Halfway down, a faint trail begins. I was worried it was a game trail but it was better than tripping down the non-trodden areas. Another 20 minutes on that trail connects you with the “ now closed due to prime Grizzly habitat” hikers trail. Following this rocky mess another 30 minutes puts you at the beginning of the senior friendly trail. Never have I been so stoked. Now to get the dogs.


                The descent "trail"Traverse the sloping scree then scramble up a soft corner to the meadows

     Turns out, they had had quite the day. Swimming in the lake, bugging the seniors for belly rubs, and generally causing dismay that they had no noticeable owners. Which apparently is NOT ok in Canada. Every Canuck that saw us had something to say about leaving your dogs. Every Canuck including the local park’s cop. Warning: Do NOT have your dog off leash in Alberta’s provincial parks. This cop was extremely unhappy. After much belittling and an hour of our time, we each got a ticket for unleashed dogs and illegal camping adding up to a grand total of $460. Turns out, we could not park overnight in that parking lot. “Should have done your research,” the cop stated without an ounce of care. To top it all off, delivered with supreme satisfaction, an eviction notice from that series of parks for 72 hours. Warning: Do NOT make it apparent that you find the until-then-unheard-of eviction from a park a laughing matter. It does not make said cop happy to feel powerless. We were done. We climbed our climb. We were already packed to leave. We gladly accepted the last of our charges.


                Driving off we debated if we should pay our fines. More research must be done to see just how seriously Canada takes their ‘dogs off leash’ tickets. We were warned they would stop us at the border but something tells me that that was just an idle threat tossed in to puff up an ego. All in all the day definitely had its ups and downs. You can’t beat the climbing, the views, and even the approach wasn’t that bad. However, the descent and the police were far from pleasant. So, never forget, do your research. Weigh your options and choose adventure.



DSC_0101Joy (5.8, 12 pitch)Leading the sea of slab leaving the dihedral for perfect handcracks




September 11, 2013 By Mollie Bailey

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Climbing Adventure Joy Rock Climbing The Eternal Season Written by Mollie Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:04:47 GMT
It's just Canada, Right? Friday, perhaps.

     Move forward, stop, breathe. Move forward, stop, breathe. Move forward, huge exhale, stop. Breathe, remember!

The feeling's the same; groggy and hungry from waiting in line, nervous, excited. I've been in this position too many times and yet, the feelings never change. "What if I don't get in?" "What if, somehow, something got put in the car that's dangerous, illegal?" "What if.." Shut up brain! I've always been successful getting in to places I shouldn't be. Music festivals I didn't pay for (they're way too expensive), bars when I was underage (just to hang out, right?), but another country! I've never done that. How could I talk my way through this one; where the stakes are so high and every border employee has a gun and a badge. No, no lying, hiding under blankets, or fake IDs will get me through this gate. Just smile and tell the truth. That's all it takes, right? That and a passport. Check. I mean, it's just Canada, right?

     OK. My turn. A friendly seeming woman is my gate-keeper. I try to start with nervous small talk, she cuts me off with a series of questions: "Do you have any guns, mace, drugs, alcohol, etc..." Nope, no, no, uh.. no.. Oops. Probably shouldn't have lied about the wine, beer, and whisky in the back. But there was no time to back-track. She was already asking another series of questions: "How many dogs are with you, do you have their rabies tags, where are you going, for how long,'re planning on staying until the weather gets bad?... I see. Pull forward to bay 4 for an inspection." Shit. All I could see was interrogation following the patrol finding the booze tucked neatly away in the back. Now I know they don't care about a bottle of wine but then, then I thought it was the end of this proposed Canadian adventure. Months of planning, saving money, creating tick-lists for the Canadian Rockies and beyond. My climbing partner Patrick, two dogs, and me. Perfect. Except for this. Being turned away from the border. And it would be all my fault.

     My brain's racing as I make awkward small talk with this border authority in front of me. "Do you know what we're looking for?" He asks, smiling, oddly excited. "Guns, mace?" I squeak out, followed by laughter. Why am I laughing? I need to quit talking but I can't. This is too much and for some reason my go-to coping mechanism is laughter and stupid jokes. The authority, let's call him Jim, (we never made it to names) is not amused. He asks if there's anything he should know about before he starts his task. Silence. Panic. I stammer out "Ok.. I'm going to level with you." I see his eyes light up. "I forgot to mention some wine and beer in the back." I force this out, tripping over my words. He looks disappointed, perhaps annoyed. "I thought this was going to be something big." Jim laments. "Ha ha, well, we're not those kinds of people." I'm not sure what I meant by that. He suggest Pat and I take our dogs for a walk. I realize it's so he can bring in a drug sniffing dog uninterrupted. The searching process only took five minutes, we were all clear. And yet, I still didn't feel certain. Perhaps it was the appearance of another border patrol officer with his hand resting idly on his gun. Were we really that threatening? "Alright you are good to go. I decided not to waste my time looking for guns because, you know, you're not those types of people." Funny. "You just need to go to immigration now." What is that? My American comes through as I feel indignation. Me? Immigrant? No. I made it trough an inspection, they can't say no now. At least, that's what I kept telling myself as they ran out passports and drilled us with questions. Repeats of the usual ones; where are you going, how long, etc.; gradually becoming more and more specific. "Where do you work, how much money do you have, do you have and family here, friends? What kind of things are in your car, who owns the car, what is your relationship with each other? Things I'd never think they'd want, need to know.

     Then, finally, the moment we'd been sweating for: "Ok, enjoy your stay." That's it. No explanations, no warnings, nothing. Justsweet, sweet freedom to peruse Canada for no longer than four weeks. I'll take it. Mission accomplished. Smooth sailing, I think as we drive off. Nothing but blue skies and sunshine and ..shit. What do these road signs mean? I don't know the conversion of miles per hour to kilometers. I come back to reality. That moment concretes that this journey is not going to be straight forward nor easy. But it's certainly always going to be an adventure. One I will welcome with open arms.


Written on September 6th, 2013 By Mollie Bailey

]]> (Patrick Betts) Canada Climbing Climbing Adventure Patrick Rock Climbing The Eternal Season Written by Mollie Thu, 12 Sep 2013 19:48:21 GMT
Embarking "But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does things, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjust the sails."

-William Arthur Ward


When the cold, hard water hit my back, I suddenly became more aware. This was going to be my last shower until...well, I do not know exactly. This had never occurred to me before. Not now, not previously. I have gone days and days in the backcountry with out showering but those trips have always had a finite ending. This trip, although having and ending, it is no where in site.


While I stood their and felt the beads of water that were being thrown from the shower head as if their were some animosity between us, I began to wonder what else I was going to be missing out on: all the fall season premiers; football; baseball post-season; a toilet; running water; a washer and dryer; and a chance to return that over-due library book How to Plan: Secrets Behind Organization. The irony and humor in that last one was suddenly blatantly and somewhat insulting. Oh well.


I grabbed a bottle of shampoo that did not belong to me, flipped it upside down and gave it a forceful squeeze, "huh, it is almost gone," and out came an electric blue, tiny bead filled ooze. "I wonder if this stuff is bad for me?" I placed my left hand in my right and began to slide the odd electric substance around and thought about the other things that would become foreign to me: shampoo, laundry detergent, eating out and surfing the web. It would be a long time before these items would become common place instead of once-in-a-blue-moon luxuries.


My bar of soap has tiny "micro blast beads" that are supposed to exfoliate and clean your skin but every time I grab it I think about how abrasive this bar of cleansing really is and how I believe that despite its abrasive nature it is more of a benefit that a detriment. I start the process of using the bar of fine sandpaper to work the days of climbing dirt off my legs when my mind begins to wander to things that I am supposed to believe are big steps in societal evolution and benefit but just may be a way to keep people around to spend more money: a house with multiple rooms; T.V.s; the internet; microwaves; water heaters; furnaces - all these things have no doubt improved the quality of living but may not be more than anchors to keep people from exploring their own lives. This big 8-month trip starts tomorrow. We leave in the morning and I will leave many, if not all, of these societal baby blankets behind. No more take-out, laundry, excess space, Breaking Bad, and showers.


As I stepped out of the shower and grabbed the towel, feelings of excitement, encouragement and a drive to explore forward came across my body like a wave. These "things" were just that - things. There is no need for me to stick around just to have these things. Moving forward, constantly adjusting the sails and enjoying the way life is at its exact moment is all I need to focus on. By leaving the distractions of college football and how its post-season does not really work; who is the next American Idol judge; or thoughts of "which room of the house should I eat my take out in?" behind I am confident I will not be lacking in happiness, fulfillment or over-all pulp as a human being. These things are merely distractions and decoys of happiness through adventure and I fully support leaving them behind, pointing yourself towards the sunset and embarking.


...but still, I cannot help but wondering when the next time I am going to be able to wash in between my toes will be...




Written on September 5th, 2013 by Patrick Betts



]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Climbing Adventure Rock Climbing The Eternal Season Written by Patrick Thu, 12 Sep 2013 19:48:08 GMT
Expecting the Expected If you have ever planned a trip or a vacation, whether it be for the weekend or for a month, you have began to expect the expected. Expect the expected: sounds like a child-rearing self help book that does not provide you with any new information but is instead the state of mind that is forced upon you because you have planned, packed, booked, purchased, and itinerated the upcoming days. You know what to expect but the fact that you are waiting and expecting for the events to happen is almost painfully tantalizing.


Mollie and I have been planning, saving, selling, buying, itinerating and looking forward to what we are (over) simply calling "our winter trip". We leave in 5 days; to move into the car; to not set foot back into a rented house for 7 or 8 months. We will travel from Canada to the edge of Mexico and cover more than 5,000 miles. As you can imagine, this type of trip takes a lot of planning, saving and organizing. We have sold many of our possessions; given away the rest; and fit the leftovers into our Honda Element.

The past 3 and a half months of guiding have gone by incredibly fast. We have saved enough, planned enough, and organized well and now its soon time to depart. It is painful. We just want to leave now. How could we not want this trip to begin sooner?


So where are we going? Well, we do not exactly know. Well...we do...but we don't. We will leave Colorado and head straight to the Banff, Canada region. Here, we will climb our faces off for 4-6 weeks (really as long as the weather allows us) then we will climb our way West and Southwest to my parent's house just south of Seattle. That's all we know - and that is the way we want it. The more we expect, the harder it is to expect what you're expecting. So, we are keeping it simple: focus on the here and now (and a little bit of tomorrow) so we do not worry ourselves on expecting the expected but get to immerse ourselves in the enjoyments of living today.


Keep an eye on the Adventure Thru Lens Facebook page and the blog for updates. We plan on living the next 8 months to their fullest and they will surely be packed full of stories, photos and happenings.


And remember, when you worry about expecting the expected you miss out on Today.



]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Adventure Mollie Rock Climbing The Eternal Season Written by Patrick Thu, 29 Aug 2013 18:10:21 GMT
The Dirtbag Life: A Cautionary Tale "There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more"

- Lord George Gordon Byron, 1813

Emily Tonish & Patrick Betts on the summit of the Out of TownerDSC_0042


Thanksgiving 2011

We had it planned out: Cochise Stronghold for a few days then Mt. Lemmon for the rest of our Thanksgiving Break. We slept in a light-hating, dark purple tent; ate bacon fat fried bagels; and drank lots of beer - oh yeah, and we climbed our faces off. This was my first real taste of dirt bagging: the art of living for an extended period of time with little to even less food, water and first world comforts - all in the hopes to climb, ski, bike, hike or live as much as humanly possible. I fell in love.

Emily Tonish on the first pitch of El Cautivo, East Stronghold, Cochise StrongholdDSC_0023

Multipitch routes by day, beer by night - we would get up, go climb, and then go to bed. Rinse and repeat. This life was simple and straight forward. It did not matter how hard we climbed because we were doing it every day, all day and successfully. We started to find it hard to go back to college, to class, to homework, to work. To us, we were living at the purest level and everything else was unnecessary excess. Why go back? Why go to a life that added to the stress and took away from available climbing time. I began to ponder this question. “Why struggle?”

My climbing partner was my best friend and my best friend was my girlfriend and my girlfriend was my dirtbag partner. What more could I ask for? We continued to plan our college breaks around extended climbing trips. Cochise Stronghold, Mt. Lemmon, Spearfish Canyon, New Mexico and any other climbing locations we could get to quickly and that promised days of climbing and nights of sitting by a fire, drinking beer and sleeping in a tent. I was tired of this being my vacations; I wanted this to be my life.


Graduation 2012


It was finally over. I was graduating from college after 5 years, a transfer and a major degree change. I could not be any more ecstatic. I had a job, too; before I had even graduated I was hired to be a climbing guide in Colorado Springs - exactly what I wanted. I felt lucky. Not many of my fellow graduates had a job already, especially in their field and one they actually wanted.

My girlfriend/climbing partner/best friend was off to Saskatchewan, Canada for her internship which meant upwards of 12 months apart. We tentatively planned climbing adventures for the end of the summer. Infinite Bliss (IV, 5.10c) in Washington, Cascade alpine rock and Canadian long routes were our hopes and climbing was our dream.

Life was great and we had a plan of working, living and then simply sending. We did not want to live to work; we wanted to live to climb.

Mollie Bailey


Work settled in for both of us – she could not find rocks to save her life in Regina, SK and I was too tired to climb after guiding all day. We settled into a routine of emailing climbing photos back and forth of potential climbs for us to do later that fall. Our new lives were making it difficult to climb, to stay stoked. Then it all changed...that crucial, critical and heart wrenching moment in every relationship: the break up. The time apart had created clarity for her to realize the relationship was non-existent and that moving on was the best thing. I was left alone, and more importantly, without a climbing partner. No more hopes of Infinite Bliss, Cascade alpine rock or Canadian long routes and the dreams of climbing were nearly shattered.


As cliché as it may sound, I was lost without her. I felt lonely, hopeless and despair had set in. I thought I would never climb again. No climbing partner, no climbing - simple as that. Despite all of these downward spiraling thoughts I realized an important and life-altering fact: I was acting juvenile and emotional. I was thinking short term; not long term. I was now unattached, un-weighted and free to move, travel and go anywhere and this was my plan. After the guiding season was over I was selling my things, giving away the rest and moving into my car. I wanted to climb. My breakup had left a hole in my heart and I wanted to fill it with climbing, adventure and life. So I set out to accomplish that. I built a loft; sold things; gave things away; purged. I now lived out of the back of my 2006 Honda Element with my dog and began chasing The Dirtbag Life.


Chasing The Dirtbag Life 


IIMG-20120911-00164 have been homeless, jobless and strictly climbing for over 3 months now. Sometimes, I do not know how I have made it this far. I look back onto my first dirtbag experience in the West Stronghold of Cochise Stronghold more than a year ago and that life then is completely different than my life now. I had a romanticized vision of a dirtbag life. I had visions of endless climbing, excellent weather and a consistent, competent and beautiful climbing partner. That was the dirtbag life to me. Every time I went on an extended climbing trip I would sit by the fire, drink a beer, and think to myself, "Yup, I could do this for a living..." I wanted that idea of a dirtbag life so bad that  I gave up everything else and chased it and I have neither stopped chasing nor have I caught it.

I have dreams of endless climbing days; trips that do not end; "Do you want to climb this route or that route today? I do not care; I will just climb the other route tomorrow."; trips that take me to The Valley, The Creek, The Red, The New, The Gunks, The 'Daks and every other climbing location that starts with "The", and even those that do not. I want to climb 4+ days a week and be thankful for days where I am not climbing.

I had watched climbing videos of “professional dirtbags” and thought that was the life of a dirtbagger. All I had to do was quit my job and that would be my life. That is not the case, though. Those people have responsibilities and obligations and in return someone pays them or gives them gear – they have jobs; jobs pretending to be dirtbaggers; jobs pushing the idea that you are not a fulfilled climber until you buy a 15-passenger van, live in it, quit showering and send nothing easier than 5.12+. I had been duped by the climbing media into thinking that a dirtbag life was one easily obtainable.


Sometimes, this romanticized dirtbag life feels more like a Shakespearean sonnet of unrequited love. No matter how hard I work at achieving a life of dirtbag nirvana I am quickly and violently pulled back into the throws of Life. I seem to spend as many days, if not more, worrying about money as I do spend climbing. It is a constant struggle. Life is not hard to sustain - a lesson you quickly learn. You are able to do much with little and you are much less dependent on the crutches of modern day living then people make it seem. But even as a dirtbag there are basic necessities that cannot be ignored and money really does rule them.

The Bare Necessities of the Dirtbag Life


Food, water and fuel: the 3 basic necessities for a dirtbag life. Lose even one of them and you cannot climb. You become resourceful, penny pinching and frugal. You search for free food opportunities, buy-one-get-one’s and leftovers. You lose all hope of variety and you settle. You may not be eating a well-balanced diet but you certainly are eating. You no longer care about what is Organic, Local, Fair Trade or even healthy. Food is food and calories are calories. 3 square meals? Try just being able to eat.

The long standing tradition of drinking a beer around a campfire after a day of climbing quickly becomes drinking water, or if you are lucky, Canadian Mist. You start drinking strictly water. No juice, beer, liquor or “unnecessary liquids” – all in the hopes to save money to get you to next climbing destination.

DSC_0009 The biggest necessity of them all: fuel. You cannot climb if you cannot get there. You do what you can. You have other people drive, you carpool, and you start taking only "necessary" climbing trips. Necessary climbing trips? A concept I hope you never have to face. You begin climbing less than before. You start doing the math. Should I go on more local climbing trips or less frequent but longer lasting destination trips? Should I just stay at one of major climbing pilgrimage locations? How can I get there? How can I get back?

You could always just live at a crag. This option saves you a ton in fuel costs but might leave you burnt out on the area, paying for camping or, God forbid, partner-less. DSC_0095


The Cautionary Tale


It begins to get difficult and challenging. Relationships are strained and so is your gear. If you are one of the lucky few who have family, friends, a girlfriend, or a boyfriend that understand and are helpful, you start finding yourself leaning quite heavily on them - favors that, quite honestly, cannot be repaid dollar for dollar. You make deals, barter and trade. Chores for food, work for cash, help move for beer. You begin climbing on old ropes, worn carabiners and blown out shoes. Not because you want to but a resole means one less fill up at the gas station or 2 weeks with less food. How often do you use your big toe anyway, right?DSC_0067

I have climbed in Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah and all over Colorado. Lots of climbing has been happening, that is for sure, but a dirtbag life? That is still to be seen. I am working much harder than I feel I should. I am not living at a crag; I am not sitting by a fire every night; I am certainly not sending every day.

Is the Dirtbag Life even real? It seems to be fleeting, an enigma, a shape shifter. Is a dirtbagger ever happy? Is there even such a thing as dirtbag nirvana? I do not know the answers to these questions and I do not think anyone does. I just will let it take me where it does and whatever comes my way I know it is the way of the dirtbagger.

The vision of a dirtbag life may seem distant and unattainable. The task of remaining stoked seems impossible. The mind will begin to focus on mainstream life and questions of conformity. Despite these seemly disastrous pitfalls, the beauty of a dirtbag life is that when you are actually right on the tail of achieving your goal, all other distractions, road blocks and hurdles cease to exist. You feel as if you are doing it right; you are on the right track; you are winning at the game of dirtbag-life. Your mind, soul and heart feel rejuvenated and everything up to that point in time and everything in the near future seems well worth it and conquerable. Your stoke is revitalized and you take on your quest with a new fervor.



As I write this, I am spending my  104th day as a dirtbag, sitting in a Whole Foods in Capitol Hill, Denver using their internet. I do not know when I am going to go climbing next. The weather looks crappy over the next few days but hopefully, by the middle of next week I will have the opportunity. I still have that romanticized vision of a dirtbag life: one of endless climbing days, endless climbing weather and a beautiful climbing partner. I have not given up that search; I have not given up on that vision – I never will.

 What is the dirtbag life really about? It is not about having all these things and being able to do them at will - it is about having the balls to go and chase your vision; that vision to keep you motivated to work hard at not working, to live on nothing and climb everything.







I am still on the quest for The Dirtbag Life. Last I heard it was perched on top of some cliff, just waiting for me to join it.


“The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore…unlike the mediocre, intrepid spirits seek victory over those things that seem impossible…it is with an iron will that they embark on the most daring of all endeavors…to meet the shadowy future without fear and conquer the unknown.” 

                        - Ferdinand Magellan


]]> (Patrick Betts) Fri, 07 Dec 2012 01:06:54 GMT
A Dessert List? No...Let's Make A Desert List! It's about time.


That's really all I could say or think. My last climbing trip was awhile ago. My weeks have flown by with local cragging, snowy weather and lots of time spent at whole foods and starbucks bumming their internet. It was at a Starbucks in Colorado Springs when my climbing partner, Mollie, and I were exchanging texts about her upcoming work schedule - most importantly which days she had off. The same old, same old: monday off, friday off. Great, more local cragging.

"Then I asked for monday, tuesday, wednesday of the week after off so hopefully I'll get out sunday and not have to go in until thursday evening."

She just made me the happiest climbing partner alive. 3 full climbing days with a half day for travel on each end? No way!? Where should we go?

Before I could even conceptualize an answer in my brain the answer was sent to me via text.

"We're out at indian creek for the next 2 weeks camping at the creek pasture, bring your rope and your rack and come climb some crack."

Thanks Bryce! It was from Bryce, my first Colorado climbing partner and one of my oldest climbing friends. He and his climbing partner, Cora, recently tied the knot (in the matrimony way) and started off on their 6 month-or-as-long-as-the-budget-allows honeymoon-climbing trip. Epic.

So Mollie and set out to go to the Desert. She has never been - I've only climbed there once but we had plenty of time to climb and to get away from the snowy Denver weather.

The planning begins!

The Desert ListIMG_20121027_121547



]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Adventure Desert Indian Creek Rock Climbing The Desert Sat, 27 Oct 2012 19:51:27 GMT
The Prodigal Son Returns...With A Score To Settle August 12, 2012: I think I'm dieing...

It was like a well articulated, well built Swiss time piece: working promptly, efficiently and never off, never not stopping. It was hot out - August at Shelf Road is relentless: no wind, no shade and unabated sun.

I had gathered a handful of climbing friends to come out to Shelf with me and have one big weekend of sending before I moved on to bigger and better things (read selling my possessions and moving into my Honda Element). People I hadn't climbed with in months; people I wanted to climb with again; people I cared about.

I had a ticklist of hard-for-me routes that I wanted to send. Routes like Lats Don't Have Feelings, Muscle Beach and #1 Super Guy. I was stoked for the opportunity to really push my sport climbing. I hadn't had an opportunity like this in a long time and I was giddy. My body, however, had other plans....

Everyone arrived. We sat around the pitchnut board, ate food, drank Canadian Mist and enjoyed life. This is going to be awesome. Tomorrow, we were off to climb, to send, to get worked.

"I don't think I'll ever return to Shelf again..."

I vomited. A lot. I never vomit...ever. I woke up nauseous and then it began. I continued to empty the contents, or lack thereof, of my stomach every 30 minutes from when I woke up to mid-afternoon. My friends hung around me, thinking I was hung over, being a pansy, and told me to "suck it up". I'm really sick...

I sent them all away; to go climb, to send, to get worked. Luke stayed behind and I'm glad he did. I couldn't stand, walk, or even talk. My body was rejecting shelf, climbing, and ideals of sending. It didn't want me to be happy and it succeeded. It got bad, real bad. I realized I needed to leave. The 90 degree air temperature combined with the fact that I could drink water was literally killing me.

I scribbled a good-bye note with my feeble hand, incapable of grasping the pen tightly:

"Too sick to climb...need to leave. Real sorry. Pat"

Luke tossed my stuff into the back of my car, loaded up the dog and we drove back to Canon City. I then experienced a feeling I hope to never experience again: thoughts of impending doom. It is exactly what it sounds like. Your mind tells you that you are going to die; you are not going to make it; you are lost and no one can help you. Simply put, your mind tries to convince you (and often succeeds) that you're just about to die and there is nothing and no one that can help you. There are lots of things that can cause this but it is most common with shock, sever dehydration, heat stroke and sever hypothermia. Your mind is not OK when this happens.

While I drove as fast as I could back to Canon City my mind raced: Am I going to make it? What was going to happen? What if I had to vomit? What if I pass out? What if I crash? What if I hit another car? Will I be ok? Do I need to go to the hospital? Do I need to call 911? I don't want to die. I'm going to die. I don't want to die. I'm not ready to die. What is wrong with me? What is going on? I don't know what's going on. I need help. Where? Where should I go? I don't know! Help! I emotionally broke down twice in the short 10 mile section and uttered audibly "I'm going to die." and began to sob. I was lost; my mind was gone and hope was impossible to grasp. The tears would subside and my mind would clear enough for me to rationalize the moment. Woah, that was weird. I'm not going to die. Why did I say that? I'm fine. Then, it would hit me again, a voice in my head would loudly interject: "You're going to die." Rinse, cry & repeat.

I don't think I've ever been happier to arrive in Canon City. I stopped at the Shamrock gas station with a goal of buying and drinking a Gatorade. I got out of the car, Luke pulled up behind me and got out. "Woah. I feel fine." I told him. Is this over? Sure enough. It was gone - whatever it was. I was left weak, empty and severly dehydrated. My fingers, toes and limbs were tingling and unable to appropriately work. I need liquid. But I wasn't vomiting.

The Return: September 28, 2012

"You want to go to Shelf and crush?" I asked Mollie. Our questions are always the same. "Do you want to [insert verb] and crush"? It didn't matter what the activity was. "Do you want to go play shuffleboard and crush?", "Do you want to go on a bike ride and crush?", "You work in the morning, ya? Go crush."

This time, though, my question was different. I really wanted to crush. I didn't think I'd ever go back to Shelf. My last trip was a fitting end, however, I left things unfinished, unclimbed, unattempted. I was itching to find out how good I was by Shelf standards. I hadn't traditionally sport climbed (read climbing straight forward cliffs with bolts every 4-8 feet) in two and a half months. My recent climbing involved trad climbing cracks, slabs and scary runout face climbing but definitely not well protected (read incredibly well protected) sport climbs. So I was excited. I felt stronger, I looked stronger but I really had no idea. I've lost weight, gained muscle, gotten more confident and mentally strong but was I physically stronger?

We arrived at Cactus Cliff; to crush was our goal and pushing our limits our plan. I warmed up on some easy routes then hopped on Funkdemental, my first 5.11 climb in a long long long time. I think it took me maybe all of 10 minutes. "Woah, you cruised that!" Mollie said when I got to the ground; I couldn't believe it.

I proceeded to climb more 11's that day. I had never done more than 1 in a day and by the end of the day I ticked off two 5.11b's (one onsite and one 1-sitter) and two 5.11d's. I bounced back from a ground fall after a hold broke right below a high (read 15 feet) first bolt, then proceeded to send. Gotta get back on the horse!

I came to Shelf with a goal and I wasn't going to get sick this time. I wanted to climb hard and I did. Simple.



]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Rock Climbing Shelf Road Sun, 30 Sep 2012 19:37:43 GMT
Ka-Prow! This is a special one - a collaborative effort. You will find words from both me and my good friend, Jamie Tinnin. Jamie is both a student of Colorado State University - Pueblo majoring in History and English as well as a student of life. He spent the last 6 months living and studying abroad in Prague. With his return to the States long behind us, we're back at it. Climbing, crushing, and living life. It is with great excitement that I bring you this collaborative anecdote from our recent adventure. Without further ado:


The Prow of Kit CarsonThe Prow (5.8R) of Kit Carson

I have been living out of my car for 3 weeks now. No job; no income; just life. People ask me, "What are you doing with your life? Like, what's your direction? Like...uh..." They don't know how to respectively and softly put their complete confusion and disagreement with what I'm doing. "What am I doing with my life? I wake up every day and do what makes me happy. If it doesn't make me happy - I don't do it," I reply. "Oh." I don't think they get it but that's fine with me. I'm not doing it for them; I'm not really even doing it for myself; I'm just doing it.


With this new life motto of doing what makes me happy I've naturally been doing a lot of climbing and traveling. The Northwest Coast of Washington, climbing in the Cascades, City of Rocks in Idaho, The Black Hills of South Dakota and Colorado have been my home. A cleverly built loft in the back of my '06 Honda Element has been my bed. My dog, my climbing partners and nature have been my company. I have ticked off a lot of "to-dos" during this time frame. The onsites of both Infinite Bliss (IV, 5.10c, 23 pitch) in Washington and The Needles Eye (5.8X) are the two most notable accomplishments of the past 3 weeks. "So what's next?" I ask myself, "Well, I've always wanted to climb The Prow (5.8R) of Kit Carson." This has been on my to-do list for a long time. Alpine climbing is my calling and I wanted to get into that discipline and The Prow has always called to me. "So go climb it" I commanded. Done.


"You want to try and send [The Prow of] Kit Carson this weekend?"

"Yeah dude. But I might have to work Saturday. I'll talk to Marv and see if I can get out of it."

"Cool. Let's make it happen."

This is what I've always liked about Jamie. He understands that life is a lot more than school, homework and a job. He values those aspects of life, definitely, but he isn't ruled by them.

"We got sending weather this weekend."

"Sweet dude. Then let's do it."

With our text-versation confirming our next adventure was taken care of we dived into beta, trip reports and directions.

"The approach sounds kinda confusing. I'll try and get it figured out."

"I'm still trying to decipher the approach."

"I've read info about the technical section a bunch but that's it..."

"Yeah I have too. But I've read a bunch of different stuff about the approach. I'll figure it out....And do you want to bivy on sat night along the trail?"


Before we knew it, it was Saturday. We were heading to the trail head as soon as Jamie was done with work. I was making dinner at 9 in the morning to eat that night and the next day. A great concoction of rice, beans, potatoes and local Pueblo vegetables. Sending food.

After some last minute packing, decisions on gear and a grocery store stop, the adventure began....



We got worked. So worked. By the time we got back to the car, we were destroyed.

The climbing was the easy part.

We couldn't believe how worked we were. "It's only like 10.5 miles round trip, ya?"


Then why are we so worked? We were so worked we couldn't answer that question.

Jamie Tinnin

Pat hates hiking. So we hiked. We hiked about 3 miles up to where we made camp on the first day. We carried our packs over streams, through bushes, back over streams, over an entire section of burned logs, and gained around 2,700 ft.


I really hate hiking. So much so I've stopped doing it for recreation. Unless there is climbing at the end of the hike I don't do it.

We carried our packs over streams, through bushes, back over streams, on logs over streams, under trees, over an entire section of burned logs. We hiked. I hate hiking.


But, while eating a concoction of rice and beans out of a Ziploc, we sat under the looming Prow, and we were stoked for what the next day would bring.


"I hope we come out of these trees and it's like, ka-prow!, there's The Prow. You get it?" I laughed, "yeah, I get it..." Ka-prow, that's a good one. And sure enough. We came out of the trees and Ka-Prow! There it was.


We woke at 5. Then again at 6. And finally, we possessed enough courage to crawl out of our sleeping bags and step into the frosty morning. And that frosty morning was the beginning of us getting worked.


Jamie isn't telling the whole truth, here. I got up at 5. It was cold. I wasn't mentally prepared for 35 degree mornings. I just got back from City of Rocks, Idaho where it was 90 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. So I went back to bed. Woke up at 5:30 - still no sun, still cold. Woke up at 6 - still no sun, still cold.

Jamie Tinnin Finally, we got moving at 8am. It was still cold and still no sun but we had to get moving and get get worked.


We thought we were a lot closer to the base of The Prow than we actually were. A couple more miles, a couple more thousand feet of elevation, and two and half hours later, we were finally roping up.


This hike was the worst. 1.5 miles over 2.5 hours. Up hill; over big rocks and small rocks; loose rocks and solid rocks; constantly and consistently up hill.


The pitches came and went. But they kept coming. Each pitch was somewhat similar, with one or two crux moves and then cruising over the conglomerate ridge. Place a piece here or there, and then just go. We were climbing quickly, but the pitches kept coming. False summits kept us thinking we were at the end.


They were fun at least. Full 60 meter long pitches with, at best, 3 or 4 pieces of gear protecting the leader if they would fall. Yeah, this route is definitely runout.

Jamie Tinnin

And after a long climb of six hours we were at the end. A couple photos and a pull of Serbian plum brandy later, the work started. We started down through a gully. Then continued down the gully. About an hour through this never-ending gully we were both tired. Pat looked at me and said, “I’m over it.” I agreed. If only we knew how much longer we still had to go.


Jamie Tinnin & Patrick Betts

Oh, I was over it. My feet hurt, my legs hurt, my head hurt, my arms hurt, my shoulders hurt, my back hurt. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of the work.


We finally made it to a clearing. At this point it was dark, so I stumbled behind Pat and his headlamp (I forgot my headlamp back at camp). Then we couldn’t quite find camp. Then we finally did.

Jamie Tinnin We sat down at our humble camp of a tarp, which was anchored between trekking poles. We wanted to crawl under the tarp and sleep, but I needed to get down to go to class at ten the next morning. We ate the remaining bites of our food and started down, with packs made heavy from our tired legs.


"I'm tired," I wined to myself, "I hate hiking."


So we hiked. Back down through the meadow and over the burned logs, through the bushes and over the streams. Three miles never felt so long. Pat didn’t talk. I was mentally exhausted and cruised, hoping to get back to the car as soon as possible. We hiked, being “over it” for four hours now.


"Why am I doing this? It isn't making me happy." I was right. I haven't done anything that didn't make me happy over the passed 3 weeks but I was doing it now. If it was up to me I wouldn't have packed up camp. I would have crawled under the tarp and slept. I didn't need to get down to go to 10AM class the next morning so why was I making myself so miserable? Because Jamie needed to get down to go to class the next day. "Fine. I'll go."

I convinced myself to keep walking; to not sit down; to keep up with Jamie, "Man! He's cruising!"


And eventually the car was there. We sat down and ate some hummus. It was midnight.


We talked about asking the Crestone Mountain Zen Buddhist Monastery if we could have some tea and cot to sleep on for the night; pretending we were dusty foot philosophers needing a place to rest their weary legs. Jamie talked about how this would be a logical and acceptable reason to miss class the next day. I agreed. But as we laughed about how cool of story that would be, we turned onto the highway and headed back to Pueblo.


Three hours later, back at my place in Pueblo, we said goodnight to a solid day.

Pat still hates hiking.


True story.


More trip photos can be found here


]]> (Patrick Betts) 14er Alpine Climbing Climbing Climbing Adventure Jamie Tinnin Kit Carson Rock Climbing Runout Trad Climbing Tue, 18 Sep 2012 16:18:41 GMT
It Was Better For Me Then It Was For You "We should climb at a place sometime where there is zero approach...."

Approaches are always the worst. If it is long and steep it's heinous and unforgiving. If it is short, flat and next to the road it's too crowded and you feel like a caged animal.

"You think this is the fork we are supposed to take a right at?" I dunno....

"How about this one?" I dunno....

We couldn't find it; a super-classic Lake Sylvan climb and it was hidden. Man, I just want to find this climb! The Conn Diagonal is an area super-classic for the grade. At 5.7, it is described as intimidating and amazing yet challenging and thought-provoking. Cool.

We finally found it and there were no climbing partners on route or at the base. Awesome!

"Ouch!" What just happened?! I turned around to see Mollie, hunched over, holding her head. Did she just do what I think she did? "Are you ok?" Yup, she's ok, I can laugh now...Mollie, while climbing through a tight squeeze between some boulders and flakes had leaned forward to much and smashed her head into the rock. Classic.


We roped up, I told her that this was going to be a long one, and gave her my standard, "I'll see you up there!" departing comment. Off I went!

This first pitch was 170 feet of bliss flake pulling, ridge-esque climbing I have ever done. It was an overall right-traversing pitch. You climbed vertical flakes that stood up like mini-ridges. The crux move, in my opinion came at the end. You clipped an old piton, moved a few feet right then head to make a committing down and out step to reach the next flake. That was awesome!

This was just the warm-up, though. The second pitch was the famous pitch. It was a 60 foot hand traverse out over space. I was so giddy I could barely hold it in. Mollie arrived at the belay with a huge smile on her face. We switched the belays over and off I went to start the pitch I had been waiting to climb all trip.

I wish it was longer. The 60 feet went by so so fast! I ended at a ledge, built the belay, sat down and was looking forward to giving Mollie a shot to climb this pitch.

Then this business started. The 3rd and final pitch has two variations and both were not what I was looking for: chimneys. I've never led a chimney before. You can't protect a chimney. If you fall, you fall in a chimney...I left the belay and headed up some blocky ground to reach a fixed pin. I clipped the pin and began the chimney. You made a real awkward move, a combination mantle and beached-whale with a knee thrown in there somewhere. After gaining a ledge, you started up the chimney. It was a lot of work but I didn't fall! I stayed calm and focused on the climbing.

"I was were making sounds you normally don't make while climbing..." Uh, what? "You were sighing a lot, like you were working hard." I was working hard! "I loved every minute of that chimney! I think it was mor enjoyable for me, though. I don't think you got to enjoy it as much as I did." Yeah, I don't think I did, either...

We sat at the top of the Outer Outlets, signed the summit registry and reveled one more time in how much we loved climbing rocks. Our next step in our adventure was Denver. Back to work, back to reality, back to the city. "You know, driving to Denver would be exciting if we weren't from Denver" stated Mollie. I guess she's right. We were anything but excited to go to Denver. But being back in Denver means one thing; our next stop is another adventure.


]]> (Patrick Betts) Black Hills Climbing Custer State Park Infinite Bliss Mollie Rock Climbing South Dakota Thu, 13 Sep 2012 23:37:49 GMT
What Are You Scared Of? "I'm terrified of needles! Oh my gosh!" followed by uncontrollable awkward laughter. Alright...she really is afraid of needles...

Mollie and I have been doing a lot of driving lately and a lot of long drives, too. We've gotten in the habit of asking questions to keep each other occupied while driving late at night and early in the morning. It helps keep the mind occupied, busy and awake. Works for me!

The Needle's Highway is situated in the middle of the only good thing in South Dakota - The Black Hills. This place is amazing on many different levels but most importantly its home to hundreds of amazing climbing route that ascend up free standing spires covered in crystals. This is where we were headed now: The Needles.

I keep saying that the Black Hills area of South Dakota is my second favorite place that I've ever been too and now I stand behind that statement more than ever. For a climber that loves to stand on top of pillars, mountains, bluffs and every other rock formation out there but could do without the sweltering desert heat the Black Hills are for you. Cool temps (although year round climbing is hard to come by), shade, water and trees are abundant. Why would I ever go back to the desert? I was in love and I had two days to indulge myself in the ways of the Black Hills.

Our first stop was the Cathedral Spires area. Lots of spires, lots of summits. Perfect. I picked out a handful, planning on doing as many as possible. Classics like the East Face of Spire 1, God's Own Drunk on the Khayyam Spire, the Eyetooth & many others were on this to-do list. So many summits not enough time!

We started out on the East Face of Spire 1, hopped over to the summit of Balcony Point view a short but sweet tight hand crack (North Crack). Fun and easy summits. What more could you ask for? How about a 150 foot dihedral?

We found our way to the base of the hard-to-pronounce Khayyam Spire to summit via God's Own Drunk (5.8+). The first 150ft were amazing text book dihedral climbing with fun runouts. The last 50ft, however, was ruined by heinous rope drag. After this first pitch it's a short jaunt over to the actual summit via exposed 4th class & easy 5th class climbing.

We were quite tired and with the realization we didn't bring any of our lunch food we hiked back out to the car. On our way out I remembered hearing about a "rickety looking tower" by the parking lot that had an "easy" route to the summit. Rickety? Sounds sweet!

We got back to the car, ate some food and I talked Mollie into giving the onsite of Sandberg Peak (5.9) a go. Now, you have to understand Mollie's mind (I don't but I'll try and explain anyway...) and how it works. She can climb pretty hard, she has climbed pretty hard. She also can handle runouts quite well (most notably the 200feet of unprotected easy 5th class pitches she led on Infinite Bliss). The caveat, though, is that she can psych herself out on stupid easy things. This makes Mollie's life quite challenging and frustrating at times. I know she can do this. Why can't she just do it! Come on! Sack up and send it!

She gave it a go, got half way up and just didn't want to fall so she called it quits and left it up to me to summit. We did and with quite the audience as well. We got back down to the car and were bombarded with questions, comments and praise. Ahh, just like Garden of the Gods...

Mollie did redeem herself that night by leading the Moonlight Rib (5.3 R) by twilight. Not only was it runout - it just didn't have fixed protection or opportunities for "modern" trad gear. She had to sling and girth hitch knobs, horns and crystals to protect herself from hitting the ground. She onsited this classic with just two pieces of protection. What? Why couldn't she climb a bolted 5.9? I don't get it....


"Just sack up & send it!"


Alright, Mollie didn't say it out loud to me but I imagine that's what she was saying in her head.

There I was, standing at the base of one of the area's super-classics and a route that I have wanted to and dreamed of climbing for years. The Needle's Eye is aesthetic no matter which way you look at it and I've always wanted to climb to the top. After my transfiguration in The City (see You Say One; I Say None) I was feeling confident with the 5.8X rating (the X stands for serious injury and consequences are probably in the chance of a climber fall).

Off I went! ...and there I stood. Stemmed in the chimney, only 30, maybe 40 ,feet off the ground. I was stuck. I didn't know where to go. I know exactly where I need to go - I just don't want fall in this chimney. Like I said, I didn't know where to go. I see where I need to be - I'm just a bit nervous to make the move. I wasn't scared, just "off route". I'm kind of scared, I'm on route and it's hard! So I down climbed, looked at the route from the ground like a baseball player looks at his bat when he strikes out. "Alright, I'll give it another go..."

Off I went! ...and there I stood. Stemmed in the chimney, only 30, maybe 40, feet off the ground. I was stuck. But this time I followed everything I tell everyone else. Just keep calm. Climb on. You wouldn't be on the route if you weren't OK with the consequences. Well, alright, that's definitely true. Just focus on the climbing. There's no pro, you can't do anything about that. Well, ok, that makes sense. Just sack up & send it already! Alright!

I pulled the move around the corner found some crystal jugs, was able to get a small (not cam) that I wouldn't want to fall on, and made my way up to the horn to belay from.

I mean, what was I scared of? Falling? From 30, maybe 40, feet off the ground? I'm scared I'll get wedged in this chimney. I moved passed that fear pretty quickly. What else? I'm afraid this thin diameter sling that I found resting on a rock at Turkey Rocks isn't going to hold the belay...Alright, let's just throw another one on there...just in case.

By this time a crowd had gathered to watch Mollie and I climb the Needle's Eye. She got to the belay, switched everything over and off I went up the second pitch, runout and airy arête - my favorite! After about 25 feet of climbing with no protection you get to clip an old piton traverse right and then climb up to the summit. Once I stood on the summit, I was met with uncontrollable hootin' & hollerin' from the parking lot below. Woah, I think they're more excited then I am!

Mollie got up to the summit, we had our moment, rappelled down, drank a beer (at 11:30 in the morning) and joked about how it was about time I had to just sack up & send it!



]]> (Patrick Betts) Black Hills Climbing Climbing Adventure Mollie Rock Climbing Sack up and send it South Dakota le Crepe Wed, 12 Sep 2012 21:44:33 GMT
You Say One; I Say None  

"Let's crush?" if it needs to be a question.



We rolled up to Almo, Idaho. Yup. There's not much here. We stopped in the little country story, bought some Moose Drool, stared in awe that they sold a random selection of climbing gear, chatted with the clerk about how busy it has been and drove off into City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho.

We had time that evening for one climb and I picked out Theater of Shadows on Jackson's Thumb off of Steinfell's Dome.


"Old school climbers may be shocked by the number of bolts, but this is a route your grandma can lead...."


Alright! This will be a great intro to The City and great quick climb for the evening. I started up the route and man, there were a lot of bolts. That's alright though, I won't complain and bash the developer for over-bolting. I mean, my grandma can't handle runout slab so how else is she going to get to the summit? So, I just skipped bolts. This is what I think most people should do instead of complaining or even chopping bolts. You're not hurting anyone by just not clipping the bolt! Anyway, that's a different topic....The most draws you would need is like 13 or 14 but I think I used 4 tops. Yeah, it's that bolted.

Mollie and I swung pitches and she felt the same way. We caught up to a party of two at the top of the 3rd pitch and chatted a bit. They were on their honeymoon traveling the U.S. in search of boulders, climbs and mountain bike trails. Awesome.

When Mollie arrived at the top of the 3rd, I gave her the charge of only clipping one bolt on this final pitch (you could clip like 9 or 10). She said "Alright..." in a not-so-convincing attitude.

"Off rope, off belay!" she yelled down. That was fast...I follow up and I never unclipped a draw.

"You say one; I say none." she gloats on the summit. She ran out the final pitch of 80 feet without any pro. This is awesome.


trans·fig·u·ra·tion  noun \(ˌ)tran(t)s-ˌfi-gyə-ˈrā-shən, -gə-\

                                                          1a: a change in form or appearance : metamorphosis

                                                          1b: an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change


The City of Rock guide book is like a novel. There are so many routes at The City that the guidebook does not lend itself to a pick-it-up-and-go-climb capability. You have to "read it, live it, learn it" (as my dad always said to me growing up). The days before the trip, I would flip through the book, look at the photos and when I stumbled upon something that looked "cool" (which I often did) I would stick a posted note in the page.

The Lost Arrow Spire caught my immediate attention. I want to climb that so bad! The Classic Route is rated 5.7 and is two pitches long. Done.

Mollie and I set out the following morning to climb the Classic Route up The Lost Arrow Spire. I knew there were some bolts, some pitons, a gear anchor and some unprotected slab. What more could I ask for? How about a 75 foot runout to the first bolt? Done.

I just kept calm and kept climbing. There were no bolts and no trad gear opportunities. I can't change this situation so I might as well just climb. This was the start of my climbing transfiguration. I now exalted runouts and scary face climbing. I felt that I was really in control, that I was the only thing keeping me from falling 60 feet to the ground next to Mollie. I don't want to put Mollie through that so I better just keep climbing. (see This Is A Rope, Now Use It!)

It was a bit euphoric, simple, black and white, rock solid (pun intended). This is the best thing I've ever climbed! By the time I clipped my first bolt I was 75 feet off the deck with no protection. I suavely clipped the bolt and kept moving. Then I hit a piton, then another, then another, then another, then one more but I skipped it. "Off rope! Off belay!" I yelled down to Mollie. Oh, that was suh-weeeet! I built a gear anchor and up Mollie came. I didn't think that the next pitch could top the first but I was wrong. I pulled a a few unprotected vertical moves, moved around the arête  and landed myself on the edge of a sea of unprotected chickenhead covered slab climbing. Aw yeah! I cruised to the huge summit ledge and was ecstatic. Best route ever!



I felt new, better, different, confident. This was runout, for sure. The guide book didn't even list it as "R" for runout! I couldn't wait to see what was next for me. I felt confident and stoked to go crush.



]]> (Patrick Betts) City of Rocks Climbing Climbing Adventure Idaho Mollie Rock Climbing Wed, 12 Sep 2012 18:25:25 GMT
Infinite Bliss: Peppermint Schnapps Required, part 3 "Ah! I'm so excited.....Oh, hey, happy birthday!"


The actual first words out of Mollie's mouth the morning of the 31st. Today was The Day and my birthday. I had forgotten about that fact. Who cares? We had arrived the night before in Washington after driving straight through from Colorado. Never before has getting up at 5:30AM been so easy.

We made some tea, ate a little breakfast, grabbed our packs and headed out. 6:09AM


"Look for a moss covered downed tree at the start of the trail. There is an overhanging mossy tree approx. 30ft down the road"


Solid directions. I don't think there is a worse way to tell someone how to get to the trail head of a mountain hike in the Cascades of Washington. I mean, everything is covered in moss.

The hike was brutal, heinous, extreme, uphill, tough, continuous, and any other word you want to attribute to a hike that is between you and the route of your dreams. I had hiked it before the following December to scout out the approach and gaze in awe at the climb. I never found the start of the route but I knew I was in the right area.

Mollie searching for the start of Infinite BlissMollie Bailey

After about 40 minutes of hiking uphill we stopped where in December, I thought the start of the route could be. We looked around for some bolts and all we found was a pair of new Oakley Flak Jacket sunglasses. Sweet. Hey, where is my camera?

Sure enough, I left my camera at the car. I could not climb this route without taking the camera. I don't always want to take photos of climbs or climbing adventure because sometimes things are better left as a mental memory but Infinite Bliss was not one of those situations.

"You want to look for the start while I run back to the car?"

Off I went. Running back downhill to grab a camera just to run back up hill to climb 2,800 vertical feet. What am I doing? What if I get exhausted from this hike and can't climb?


I get back to Mollie with the camera in hand and hope she has found the start of the route and she gave me a discouraging head shake. No? What do you mean, "no"? Where is this route?! Are we even in the right place? Did we turn at the wrong mossy downed tree? What if the National Forest Service finally chopped the bolts? Did we drive all the way out here for nothing? Oh no...


My mind raced with thoughts of negativity. This couldn't happen. Stop it. We got back on the trail, turned up hill and burned out the last bit of heinous trail before it took a sharp left turn straight towards some slab. This is it.


What could you expect from a route like this but a bit of 5 class down climbing to get to your starting belay anchors. Alright! Today is going to be epic.



Mollie following the first 5.10b pitchMollie Bailey

The first 3 or 4 pitches we simul-climbed before we decided to pitch everything out and get down to business. The bottom 8 or 9 pitches are all awesome slab. I couldn't believe I was enjoying slab so much but how could I not enjoy this? Look where I am! We swung pitches pretty much all day. I took the harder pitches Mollie took the moderate pitches and we split everything else. Pitch after pitch was amazing. "I'm so stoked!" we exclaimed this at every belay. This was awesome and it seemed never ending.

We got up to the part that I always knew was going to be the trouble pitches. Two back-to-back 60m, 5.0 pitches without protection. It wasn't the thought of falling nearly 400 feet before getting arrested; it was the high likelihood of getting off-route and lost.

Mollie took the first 5.0 pitch and sure enough, we got off route, couldn't find the route-anchors but did find a slung bush. Mollie belayed me up to the bush and we took a look around to see what we could see. Nothing but crappy rock. We are standing in the middle of a sea of choss with no chance for pro. Great.



I took the sharp end and started climbing off the slung bush. I hope I find the bolted anchors...I spotted a bush about 60m up and decided to head towards that. Worse comes to worse, I sling the bush and we go from there. This rock sucks. I kept climbing. No need to think about anything else. Crack! A handhold came off in my hand. I think I'll just put that back. I placed the rock back where I found it and found a new one. Just keep climbing.

I arrived at the bush and to much surprise and a little bit of amusement there was a huge tat nest (a jumble of slings left on natural object for belaying and rappelling purposes) on this bush. I guess we aren't the only people that have gotten lost. There were even some brand new slings. Huh, I wonder if those sunglasses belong to the people that left these brand new slings? Man, talk about a sucky day for them...I belayed Mollie up. Yup, still in this sea of choss - with nothing promising within 60m of us in any direction. There, looming above us, as if it had just conquered us, was the final steep headwall, crux pitch and the summit. Oh man, I want that so bad! 5:45PM

Patrick following one of the middle pitchesPatrick Betts

We had cruised quite well all day 2.5 pitches an hour. But now, it became real. All day we were climbing, quite literally, in infinite bliss but now it hit us like a brick wall. This is where things could go wrong. We had a couple viable options. 1: Free solo (climb with no rope or protection) approximately 400 ft higher on crappy 5.0-5.4 rock to the trees above where the route should be. 2: Tie the ropes together and belay one of us as we "free solo" the 400 ft to the trees while being belayed off of a bush that couldn't hold a factor 2 fall (length of the fall is two times the length of rope in system. Often can end in catastrophic failure of the anchor) or 3: Bail. Ugh, I hate bailing.

Mollie Bailey

"I'm not cool with free soloing this bit, or climbing unprotected." Me either.

We made the (intelligent) decision to bail. With dwindling light, we found ourselves 17 pitches up (approx. 2,000 vertical feet), 6 pitches from the summit and at the base of the "best climbing on the route" and we had to make one of the hardest decision I've ever had to make. We finished our 2 hour rappel in the dark, hiked out in the dark (Mollie's foot, somehow injured during the climb, kept her from walking faster than 1/2 MPH) and arrived at the car with a full moon looming on the horizon. What time is it?

Never has peppermint schnapps tasted so good.

"Ah, that was so amazing!" These were the last words out of Mollie's mouth before she passed out in the back of the car. Yes, it definitely was.


See more photos from the trip here


Mollie and Patrick mid-route on Infinite BlissMollie Bailey & Patrick Betts

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Infinite Bliss Mollie Rock Climbing Washington Fri, 07 Sep 2012 20:40:10 GMT
Infinite Bliss: Stoked, part 2 "Ah! I'm so stoked!"


This was a common phrase for us on our long drive out to Washington from Colorado. Mollie and I could not believe it. We were on our way to go crush (another common verb used during this trip) Infinite Bliss (IV 5.10c) in Washington and we only met less than 6 weeks ago.

Funny how things work out sometimes. I thought my dream of Infinite Bliss was gone when I was left down in the dumps by the end of a long relationship with my climbing partner. I had given up on all hope of getting a change to climbing the 23 pitch route on my 23rd birthday. How am I going to find a climbing partner who I trust enough and who can take the time off on short notice to climb this route?

I didn't know the answer and I didn't think there was one.

"You need to start climbing with new people, Pat, especially if you're moving back to Washington. You know how much awesome Alpine [climbing] there is there?!"

Oh, Johnson. He always got on me about not liking climbing with random people. I put a lot of weight into climbing partners. It's more than just a belayer for me but I was starting to realize I no longer have a girlfriend who is highly competent climber. That was the perfect scenario and now it was over and I was back to looking for/creating a new climbing partner. Alright, I suppose I should give this a try...

That's how Mollie and I found each other, via the Partner Search on I rolled the dice and I think I might have won. A chick who is stoked on life and cares more about traveling and experiencing things than sitting behind a desk to accrue expendable income that never gets used? Sweet!

So when I brought up the topic of attempting Infinite Bliss, she was sold before I could even finish. She had never been to Washington, never climbed something so epic and got to travel. I couldn't believe it. Is she for real?

Yes. Yes she was.


So there we were, driving out to Washington on our 8 day adventure. First stop was birthday sendage on Infinite Bliss for my birthday then travel to the coast and then hit the road back to Colorado with a quick stop in City of Rocks, Idaho for some more sendage.


]]> (Patrick Betts) Adventure Climbing Climbing Adventure Infinite Bliss Mollie Rock Climbing Fri, 07 Sep 2012 20:38:44 GMT
Infinite Bliss: The Beginning, part 1 "Hey, here's an idea. We should climb 23 pitches on my 23rd birthday."

That was probably the best and most creative [climbing] idea that I have ever had.


When will I be able to do this again? The Nose on my 31st? Salathe Wall on my 35th? I'd have to learn to aid climb...and big wall climb. What about The Scariest Ride in the Park on my 40th? Nope. That sounds scary. Well, maybe I'll do that one...

Basically, this was my best opportunity to be successful. Infinite Bliss is a grade IV route with 23 pitches of climbing, 2,800 vertical feet of ascent and crux pitches that go at 5.10c. Oh yeah, and it's all bolted.




So there it was: 5 months before my birthday, Emily and I planned on climbing this route. I was excited and I thought about it more often than I should have. In the midst of finishing up my last semester at college, finding a job, moving, climbing, studying, climbing and figuring out Life - all I could think about was this endeavor.

No one knew how exited I was. I have been climbing for 5 years and I have never been so dedicated, excited and confident on doing anything. This was it, this was going to be the apex of my climbing career to date. This is noteworthy, remarkable, and serious. It is the longest sport climb in North America. I mean, it's only 200 feet shorter than The Nose on El Cap and you do it in a day! Epic.

The plan was set: graduation took place, I moved, started a new job and said goodbye to my girlfriend as she went to spend her summer in the Saskatchewan. With all this change happening, there was one constant: Infinite Bliss.


"I think we should break up," is what I was told mid-summer.

Ok? But what does that mean for Infinite Bliss?


What does that mean? It's not like Infinite Bliss was the name of or hippie love child. It's a climbing route. I was more concerned about loosing my climbing partner for this endeavor than loosing someone I saw myself spending the rest of my life with? What does that mean?


There I was 2 months before my 23rd birthday: I got dumped and my Infinite Bliss looked infinitely impossible.

Infinite Bliss


]]> (Patrick Betts) Adventure Climbing Climbing Adventure Mollie Rock Climbing Wed, 29 Aug 2012 18:49:35 GMT
The Anticipation Is Breaking My Toes! Johnson MayoDSC_0113


"I don't think you're going to leave. Nope. You're just going to stay here."

Denial - the refusal to admit the truth or reality


The past few months I had been planning on leaving. "Where are you going," I was always immedietly asked after I said I was leaving.


That was my answer. I didn't know, didn't care, and in fact, it was practically impossible for me to figure out. What I did know is that if I was going leave, I was going to climb and climb a lot.

So the stage was set: epic climbing days with friends that I may never see again. First stop was Shelf Road. This is where I really learned to climb, honed my skills and pushed my limits. 3 days there trying to send as many "to-do's" that I had been looking at for years.

Jamie and I showed up Saturday morning and climbed at the edge of the middle of nowhere at Shelf (aka The Dark Side). After a few routes and a lot of bushwacking, we decided to head back to camp, chill out for a bit and then go send some hard stuff on Cactus Cliff. We got out to Cactus Cliff and started climbing. I sent Illegal Smile, an 5.11b, with one sit on the rope without even warming up. Alright, this is a good sign....Too bad this was going to be my last climb at Shelf Road....

The next morning I woke up, felt sick, and continued to vomit every 30 minutes from 9AM to 1PM. Great, so much for climbing....


Patrick BettsDSC_0036


"I don't think you should leave. Nope. You should just stay here."

Bargaining - to negotiate the terms of an agreement, contract or purchase


Johnson MayoDSC_0125

Johnson had pulled off near miracle. We were going camping. 2 days of climbing, 1 night of camping. I was stoked. I had never spent more than one day of climbing with Johnson and because I was leaving, his amazing and wonderful wife agreed to let me him leave her and the two young kids.

So we planned on two days of climbing at Turkey Rocks. We had spent most of our climbing time this summer sending the near vertical, granite cracks of Turkey Rocks. We had routes we wanted to try and send and this was going to be our best and last opportunity to accomplish those goals.

So naturally, we got hurt.

I pick Johnson up on Monday morning.

"So, I'm going to tell you, I hurt my toes. One on each foot. They were quite purple and swollen last night..." confessed Johnson.

"Alright," I responded, "That's kind of funny because I hurt my toe on Friday..."

So off we went, to climb hard (for us) cracks for two days with damaged toes. This could be interesting....

Needless to say, we weren't that successful. It was hard to push ourselves with hurt (and quite possibly broken) toes. But we still got to camp, sleep outside and enjoy nature. The climbing may not have been very succesful but the trip sure was.


Patrick BettsDSC_0051

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Johnson South Platte Trad Climbing Turkey Rocks Wed, 29 Aug 2012 18:31:03 GMT
This Is A Rope. Now Use It! Free soloing is the dangerous act of free climbing a rock face alone, without a rope, gear, or any other protection from the dire effects of gravity. Despite its intimations of glory, free soloing is not recommended since the consequences of a fall are usually death or at least disfigurement

Some climbers have this romanticized and glorified image of free soloing - as if you are not actually rock climbing if you use protective equipment. I have never understood this ideology that has become so popularized recently by the publicity Alex Honnold has been receiving after his successful free solo climbs of major climbing formations.

You don't need a belayer unless you fall

I jokingly use this statement all the time. Only because I am an "onsite climber" (the preference of walking up to any route and climb it the first try without falling) not because I want to free solo. As a climber you spend hundreds of dollars on over-engineered equipment that is designed to be practically indestructible under the forces that a falling climber can inflict on the climbing system. Yet, somehow, people feel the need to leave this life-saving equipment in their closet at home and head out to climb thinking that the equipment only keeps them from "truly climbing" the route.

New Places, New Sites, New Sounds

Eldorado Springs State Park - I had never been there before. My climbing partner Mollie is in love with this canyon of impressive rock that surrounds you. Fair enough. So I headed up to Denver to meet her and then climb that evening. We arrive at Eldo and grabbed our gear, figured out what we wanted to climb and set off. I notice almost immediately that there are two guys down climbing a somewhat technical section of rock. I asked Mollie if the descent routes were down climbing and she said no. We get closer to the base of our route and the two free soloers had come down and were starting back up a route that was 50 feet to the right of the one we were going to climb. We hiked underneath them and I thought to myself, "Man, I sure hope they don't fall on us!" and kept on walking.

You don't need medical attention unless you fall

"Oh shit!"

Mollie and I both turned around to see one of the free soloers falling. No rope. No Harness. Just falling. He hit the face of the cliff once, bounced off and was in free fall towards the rocky ground below.

Then we heard the most gruesome and sickening sound that we had ever heard. A sound that will never leave my mind. The sound of a human body landing on the hard ground below. A deep, dense thud.

The climber had fallen about 30 feet away from where we were standing so I immediately dropped my backpack and hurried back down the trail. By the time I arrived, the climber had gotten up, moved, was talking and seemingly was "ok". I knew, though, there is no way this man is "ok". He is anything but "ok". He just fell 60 feet to the ground. "Why is he moving?" Stop moving. "Hey, sir, you need to stop moving, ok?" Seriously! Stop moving! I explained to him who I was and what I was going to do but he was confident he didn't need any assistance. He needed more help than I could provide.

A quick once over and the climber looked to be pretty "unscathed" but I knew this wasn't the case. He had a broken nose and dozens of lacerations across his face, arms and legs. "Ok, he isn't bleeding profusely. Good. No open fractures? Nope. He's conscious, alert and oriented. Good. Something is wrong but what is it?"

"My hip hurts. I can't use my right leg."

"Ok. Broken hip? Femur? Oh, I hope it's not the femur...."

By this time is free soloing partner had climbed off the rock and arrived "on scene". We went through everything we knew then he left to get their third member of the party who was fishing in the river below and tell him to get the truck ready. I began walking the climber down. Slowly and carefully yet as quickly as possible.

"What if he passes out? What if he loses consciousness. Oh, I really hope he doesn't lose consciousness...."

The State Park's ranger was alerted and showed up on scene. He asked the injured climber if he wanted them to call an ambulance and was met with a resounding "No" from the injured climber.

"Really? You make the decision to free solo and you are going to let him deny medical assistance?"

We finally get the injured climber down to their vehicle after about 45 minutes. We got him in the back seat and off they went. The end.

"Where's Mollie?"

She was still up the trail where we saw the climber fell - just sitting there. I sat down next to her on a rock and just gave her my "old man" sigh. "He's not doing so hot," I said. She was tense, nervous - as if she hadn't taken a breath since we heard that thud.

"It's going to be ok!" I jokingly said to her. She laughed, breathed and we talked about it. We couldn't believe that it really happened. We couldn't believe the sound that we heard. The ordeal was over. "Now what?" I didn't really feel like climbing anymore. We grabbed our stuff and hiked down to the river and relaxed.

]]> (Patrick Betts) Accident Climbing Free Soloing Trad Climbing Wed, 22 Aug 2012 04:41:21 GMT
What A Great Climbing Day For A Hike "What time do you two want to leave tomorrow?"

Mollie leading GlenMollie Bailey

I probably asked the worst possible question to these two. They both responded with indecisive sounding I-don't-care's and anytime's.

9 o'clock it is, then.

"Good morning! I went to Wooglins to get some coffee."

Mollie Bailey

"Did anyone check the weather report?"

Jamie Tinnin

I had but it said the same thing it always says during a Colorado summer: 30% chance of thunderstorms. Turns out that this day that 30% was serious about living up to its potential.

Glen's Pancake is a fun route - a good warm up and in today's case - a great cool down as well. But that's alright. The climbing day turned out to be a great day for a hike.

Jamie Tinnin

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Rainy Day South Platte Trad Climbing Turkey Rocks Thu, 16 Aug 2012 20:57:37 GMT
If At First You Don't Succeed; Try and Try and Try and Try and Try Again. "Yeah man, I'm kind of done with this."

That was a pretty common response from me when it came to top roping 5.6 cracks at Turkey Rocks. My first trip to Turkey rocks was Summer/Fall of 2011 and for a long time it was also my last trip. Johnson was a fan of Turkey Rocks and a fan of crack climbing; me, not so much. I knew Johnson was a bit disappointed to hear that I didn't really like crack climbing but I couldn't help it. I gave it a shot and I tried. Ever since my first introduction to crack climbing at The Columns in Eugene, OR I just wasn't a fan. So, I dedicated my time to sport climbing and face climbing.Patrick running it out to the top of Bloody Englishman (5.8)Patrick Betts

Then one day in 2011 Johnson wanted to head out trad climbing at Turkey Rocks. "It's the best consolidated crack climbing in all of Colorado!" he would say ecstatically. "Oh, alright..." I replied. Simply put, I just wasn't ready for crack climbing last summer. I was making huge progress in my sport climbing and multipitch ability and skills so why would I want to stop to start all over again? I didn't.

Johnson showing how its done on Reefer Madness (5.8)Johnson Mayo

Then a few months ago, I graduated from college; my climbing partner exiled to the Saskatchewan; and I was living in the gateway to the South Platte. Johnson had a open and closed case: we lived withing 5 miles of each other and with the hopes of doing some truly BA alpine climbing in Canada at the end of the summer, Johnson knew I needed to start working on my gear placements, crack climbing, and trad-lead confidence.

Sure enough, a week ago we found ourselves at the base of the Turkey Perch looking to knock out as many climbs as possible. By the end of the (long and tiring) day we both lead 3 routes; nothing harder than 5.8. As we were hiking out I couldn't help but tell Johnson that I had started to grow fond to crack climbing - and I knew hearing  that was the best part of Johnson's day.













]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Johnson South Platte Trad Climbing Turkey Rocks Tue, 24 Jul 2012 02:30:59 GMT
Your First Time I have always tried to think about my first time - yet, it alludes me. Maybe it just wasn't that good? Maybe I just wasn't that good? Maybe it felt forced? Maybe it wasn't a special enough occasion? Maybe it just doesn't matter?

Nikki cruising up Fractured FairytalesNikki Kaufman

As a guide, I have had the opportunity to guide many people through their first time but it's different for them then it was for me. They are paying me for my services. I'm working them for tips. And everyone involved just hopes that it isn't weird at the end of the day. All I remember from my first time is that I didn't really know or like the people all that much but I was just happy to experience something I never had before.

Kelly showing superb technique on Fractured FairytalesKelly Varian

My roommates and I went climbing the other day. It was their first time, too. Some had climbed in a gym before while others had never put on a harness and were slightly afraid of heights. I was truly excited to take them climbing. I got to guide them through their first time and I got to orchestrate the whole thing. I thought hard about which route would be a great "intro to climbing" route. Maybe Potholes? Naw, too busy. How about the North Ridge of Montezuma's Tower? Nope, too exposed. Maybe Alexi's Climb at the Green Pillars down at Shelf? Definitely not. Then it came to me as if it had been standing in front of me the entire time: Fractured Fairytales. Yes!

Sylvie pulling the bulge on pitch 4 of Fractured FairytalesSylvi

I had climbed this twice before and both times it was incredibly enjoyable. Fractured Fairytales is probably the only non-guide route that I've repeatedly climbed in the past 18 months.

Nikki, Kelly and Sylvie had no idea what to expect and that's what I wanted. It would be completely different then anything they had climbed before - if they had even climbed before! 700 feet of pure enjoyable granite slab climbing makes for an awesome first-time story!

On the summit! (left to rightl Patrick, Nikki, Sylvie & Kelly)DSC_0025


]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Fractured Fairytales Helens Dome Multipitch South Platte Tue, 24 Jul 2012 01:51:44 GMT
The Stakes Are Heating Up Waldo Canyon Fire I’ve never really been told that I could not go climbing. Yeah, I definitely had those rain-outs (or in some cases, snow-outs) but more often than not, you or your climbing partner say, “Hey, let’s not climbing today.”

Yesterday, however, was the first time I have been told that I could not go climbing. I was driving to Garden of the Gods Visitor Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado to go work. I am a climbing guide and I had a trip at 4pm. As I show up to the visitor center, there is a police barricade at the entrance and a policeman telling people the park is closed.

This closure, of course, was because of the Waldo Canyon fire, which erupted Saturday afternoon. The Garden of the Gods was not immediately threatened; it was just a precautionary measure.

I’m not sure how I feel about being told that I am not allowed to climb – especially with no immediate threat. Sometimes, though, you just have to do as you are told.

Waldo Canyon Fire

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Garden of the Gods Wild Fire Sun, 24 Jun 2012 16:20:26 GMT
A Wilderness Experience My climbing buddy, Johnson, and I decided to go on our own adventure the other day. Per usual, we were off to explore the South Platte climbing region of Colorado. One of the most revered climbing gems of Colorado. Granite dome, granite cracks and a wilderness feel that is hard to top are just some of the wonderous gifts that the South Platte has to offer.

Our destination put us in the Lost Creek Wilderness area. What a secluded and serene feeling this casted on our climbing day. We felt "out-there" and "alone" which can be difficult to find in some of the more popular (and populated) climbing locations of the Front Range.

Wigwam Dome was our destination. Our plan: crush the 2 mile hike in; then cruise the 5 pitch, 5.9- route, Trail of Tears. Now, I am not much of a prolific trad(itional) climber - I much prefer the ease and simplicity of clipping bolts. Johnson, however, has subscribed to and has a strong desire to return back to the roots of climbing: leave no indication that the rock was touched or traveled by human hands. Trail of Tears would feed this desire and prove to be an epiphanous route for all involved.

At the end of the (long) day, Johnson and I had nothing to complain about. The route had it all: laybacks, slab climbing, chimneying and even a spicy little runout.That was quite the runout on the top of pitch 3!

 The view looking south from the summit of Wigwam Dome. You can see Pike


Johnson & Patrick on the summit of Wigwam Dome via Trail of Tears. Photo courtesy of Johnson MayoSummit_Wigwam Dome 

]]> (Patrick Betts) Climbing Johnson South Platte Trad Climbing Trail of Tears Wigwam Dome Wilderness Thu, 21 Jun 2012 22:00:02 GMT