After much brooding and handwringing I finally made it happen, I found my way to New Zealand. Though long, the flight was pleasant especially landing in the city of Christ Church on such a gorgeous blue bird day. I met up with my buddy who had been working out of Queenstown as part of a working holiday. It had been two years since I had seen Christian but I could sense that the Honda Odyssey with two surfboards on the roof was his, or the sense was brought on by the delirium of the ridiculously intense sunlight of NZ because of the hole in the ozone layer (bring sun screen folks!).
Christian getting the wing up in Christchurch
After exchanging pleasantries and an introduction to his girlfriend Marie we headed first to a rugby game (I had no idea what was going on the whole game). After finishing a few errands about town we headed up to Mt Somers to do some climbing and stay in a back country hut. One of the many beauties of New Zealand is its backcountry hut system. Gone are the days of fumbling with a tent in the backcountry with the plentiful amount of huts spread across the country. In order to incentivize hunting to reduce invasive specie populations like deer and Tahr the NZ department of conservation has built backcountry huts that await hunters, hikers & climbers with beds, fireplaces and the usual deck of cards for a game of shit head. All for a nominal fee or flash of a 6-12 month hut pass.
Mt Somers is home to a hut located next to the Pinnicals climbing area. After a 4 hours hike to the hut lugging all our gear and food we arrived sweaty but rewarded with stellar views of waterfalls and Jurrasic park esc foliage. Armed with a bit of beta from Climb NZ (MTN Project for NZ) we took a stab at the crag just 10 minutes away. We happened on the 3 pitch Rocky Road (5.10c).
Depending on the site you trust pitch 2 can be rappelled with a 70m rope where as mtn project says it needs two ropes to wrap down if you need to bail. We trusted the Climb NZ beta but it felt awfully high at the top of pitch two and I am glad we made it up the whole climb so we did not have to solve the mystery of how long of a rope was actually needed to bail. The climb it self was great! Super balancy and run out making each venture to the next bolt a moment of intense focus as a fall would lead to a considerable ride for an intermediate sport climber. The grippy plentiful feet go all the way to the top where we were greeted with a horrible old bolt belay for pitch 2 and rusty rap chains atop pitch 3 that utilized a piece of metal that I had seen to hold together a childs swing set. Sufficient to say I was not excited about the wrap off the back on the sketchy chain but it all worked well enough. The next day we spent doing a few of the shorter routes which were fun but not exceptional. More than anything the location and the trad climbing is the star of this crag, with an additional sense of adventure coming from the hut experience.
View of Mt Cook on the way to Dunedin
Weather rolled in so we decided to continue our journey south towards the beautiful city of Dunedin. Dunedin is probably the coziest of the “big” cities on the south island. A university town located right on the water gives the town a sense of quaintness while still maintaining a busy downtown area. Just outside of Dunedin is a little crag called Long Beach. While not a paradise in numbers it surly is paradise in terms of pleasantness. Short basalt cliffs line the mostly empty beach that will lead to a good pump and some inspiring one move wonder climbs. The style and frequency of climbs feels a lot like Black Rocks in St. George, Utah. After climbing a few pitches we took a break and wandered over to the penguin cave next door to spy a couple of the cute critters hiding out in a hole beside the cave. And just like that the day was over. Walking the beautiful beach back to the car during sunset is a joy seldom experienced in my climbing career and was so good we went back the next day for more climbing action.
Long Beach Climbing
While both of these crags were a good deal of fun they are both small crags. In future posts ill talk about some of the bigger locations like Wanaka, Castle Hill, and Milford. Till then enjoy a few photos!
Hut life in South Temple
When out traveling it is easy to rationalize that while you miss home you are likely putting it on a pedestal and the feelings of comfort, joy, and excitement you get from the thought will slowly fade after the first week of being home. Much like the scene from 500 Days of Summer where expectations and realities are juxtaposed next to one another and the realities are lack luster at best, coming home can feel the same. I however, am a lucky man… The luckiest man on earth I would even say. I have been back home in Utah for two months now and leave for New Zealand tomorrow and I am still excited and amazed by Utah’s beauty each and everyday. I had the good fortune to finally climb the 22 pitch 5.11 monster that is Squaw Struck with my climbing partner Michael (A goal of mine that has been on the table for years), trips to Joes Valley, and endless amounts of fun during a tour of Utah’s National parks with a former guide buddy of mine.
City of Rocks – Idaho
Joes Valley – Utah
Having lived in Utah nearly all my life I like to think I have a reasonable grasp on the opportunities and cool activities in the area. Theoretically this is true but I did not really believe it till I went on my road trip through Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. We started our trip in Goblin near the Swell where we did some rappelling and Canyoning before moving on to the Cottonwood Wash outside Capitol Reef. Most people when they visit Utah look only at the National Parks and miss out on much of what makes Utah truly amazing… its National Forrests and State Parks. On the incredible drive from Capitol reef to Bryce through Escalante you will encounter incredible views and months worth of Canyoning and hiking opportunities all with virtually none of the crowds common in the National Parks (cough Zion cough).
Ding and Dang – The Swell
There is not much more to say other than I love this state and I love my home and while I am excited to head to New Zealand. This will not be the last you hear about Utah.
190ft Arch Rap
Angels Landing – Zion
Potentially a California Condor (someone correct me) atop Angels Landing
Kolob Canyon – Zion
My motivation to continue updating this blog and website has fallen dramatically. The plan was to continue to update the site in Spanish and write about crag in the United States. It goes without saying that the motivation to continue practicing Spanish in a written sense is minimal and updating the website with info on USA crags is pretty much pointless because there is such a wealth of information on Mountain Project. That being said it appears that the website is still helpful to many as it still gets a reasonable amount of views and I get emails and comments from time to time from people looking for help. My plans are as follows; keep the website up with all the information for Colombia and continue responding to comments and emails to help people climb in the amazing country that is Colombia. I am headed to New Zealand in Novemeber and there is not that much info on Mountain Project with regard to NZ so maybe I will start updating again when I go there.
Till then here are some photos from the climbing I have been doing back home in the American West. I have been lucky enough to hit up Joes, City of Rocks, Smith Rock, Tahoe, and all my favorite local crags and hoping to complete the 22pitch 5.11- Squaw Struck in the coming weeks. Till then here are some photos from my adventures back home.
Acá está un video de la caminata a Lago Aloha en Tahoe California. Hay perfectamente agua aquí como un espejo! En la próxima blog voy a discutir los lugares por escalada en Tahoe.
The very first area I added to Mountain Project was an area just outside of Bogota called Zipa. At the time I added the location I was unfortunately unable to add the climbs and photos. Recently however, I had a shot at redemption with a return to the wonderfully tranquil and overhanging jug zone that is Zipa. Covered in vegitation that looks like mother natures beard Zipa has no shortage of great climbs. Additionally, I was happy to see that other people (Federico Echevery) have started adding climbs and I am no longer alone in the quest to add routes to this local. If you are looking to do some climbing I highly recommend the area but more than anything I am happy to see that other people are adding climbs making MTN Project of use in Colombia!
A video of walking through Colombia and Ecuador. I will hopefully getting some climbing done next week!
If you are anything like me you loved Colombia so much you had to renew your visa after thirty days. I chose to cross the boarder with Ecuador and make a bit of a vacation out of it. And fortunately as always there is climbing. I began by taking the bus from Pasto to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Quito, the highest capital city on earth has a beautiful colonial side located in the old town and a more bumping nightlife to be found just outside. Located centrally, it is easy to get to the beach, mountains, or Amazon with just one bus!
There is plenty to see and to do in Quito. Visit the many churches and city square and visit the local market to get a full smash meal for just 2.50$. Oh yeah, they use USD in Ecuador which is nice and has an interesting story to it that can be learned by taking the free walking tour that’s leaves from the Community Hostel.
In addition to a cool cultural city Quito has quick access to some fun climbing spots. I met up with a guy from Mountain Project and we headed out to Sigsipamba.
Sigsipamba has a hand full of routes, most of them hard because they are overhung. Not only will you get nice and strong climbing here but it is shielded from the rain which was a god send because during my time in Quito it rained everyday. Sigsipamba is far from the only crag close to Quito but sadly it was the only one I had a chance to visit and I will hopefully adding the routes to MTN Project soon.
Los Nevados is a gigantic park located West of Bogota and is accesible from Salento, Manizales, and a few other small towns. It is a park of amazing natural beauty and kind hearted farmers.
My journey begins in Salento where I met up with my buddy Kurt who I used to volunteer guide with in Guatemala. Salento is a touristy cozy town located next to the park that boasts plenty of accomodating hostels. While relaxing in Salento make sure to go for a hike to the surrounding rivers, eat some of the deliciously cheap trout (trucha), and kick back with a beer at the main square. While Salento is deserving of a post all its own the true meat of Salento comes from the park Los Nevados.
The park is unique in my experience of Colombia because it is one of the few parks where no guide is needed (though they are very helpful). Kurt and I began our day early and left for Cocora Valley (the entrance to the park) from the main square at 8am. Transport was on the back of a jeep and cost about 3,000 COP (1$). There is a standard loop that many tourists do from the hummingbird area to the palm trees. Kurt and I opted for a more intense route.
We began by visiting the iconic palm trees first where we then proceeded to cross a few rivers and climb for what seemed like forever to Finca Primavera. It took us 7 hours to arrive at the finca where we were greated with amazing home cooked food and a cozy bed. The next day we explored the incredible vistas and waterfalls and ran into a guide at Finca La Playa who said he could guide us up the Tolima Glaciar.
Usually I am not one for guides but this was well worth the money because much of the route we made was done in the middle of the night. We left to scale Tolima at 1am in total darkness and rain. Tolima is the tallest volcano in the park at 5215m (around 17,000ft). After scrambling up light snow and a rock section we reached the Tolima glaciar where we put on our crampons, rope, and ice axes. The rain was clearing and the sun rising. We had an incredible view from the top and even were able to see one of the other volcanos in the park erupting. The weather window was perfect as it started to rain once we began our decent.
The downclimb was great because we could finally see the trail we had been hiking the entire time. We even past a point of great interest where we could see the left over tail from a plane that had crashed years ago. We returned to Finca La Playa around noon and took a nap and awoke just in time for dinner.
Our original plan was to hike the following day to Termales Cañon, camp, then hike out at Ibague the day after. However, it was raining so hard we decided to head back to salento. If you would like a detailed map for the trail all the way to Ibague I recommend this website. The trail down was absolutely soping wet and was more like skiing than hiking. The river was running so high that we used some folks passing buy on horse to help us get accross. All in all Los Nevados is an incredible park that we only scratched the surface of, as there are many hikes and trails in the area and one can spend weeks exploring these areas. If you would like to see a video of the adventure click here.
Video of Los Nevados and Tolima glaciar summit. Written post soon to follow.