Thursday, September 21, 2017

Back in the Andes!

After obssesing over the cordillera blanca for many month's I finally made it back this past summer!

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Timo and his Homemade axe!
I started the trip with a failed attempt at Nevado Copa (6188m). I had joined a guided group to Copa, but the weather was insane and it was impossible to summit because of a white-out and extreme hail! From the basecamp we walked up for a few hundred meters before we retreated to our tents. That was it! A crappy start that could only have things getting better!

After leaving copa I arranged with Timo, another french-canadian, to climb Nevado Pisco (5752m), Yanapaccha (5460) and Chopicalqui (6354) in 10 days. We had planed one hell of an adventure.

Timo was a friend of a friend. I'd heard about him by reputation, but until my trip to Huaraz, I had never met him. I felt confident about his background but it's still always a little stressful to climb with someone you've just met.
What I liked the most about him was his creativity. He'd made his own ice axes out of wood and staineless steel.
They were well made axes and they really worked well.
Every guide we met in the valley would ask Timo if they could have a look at his axes. They were the center of attention.
In the meanwhile our attention was focused on our first goal; nevado pisco, 5752 meters in altitude.

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View from Pisco approach trail :  Chopicalcqui, Huascarsan Sur, Huascaran Norte (from left to right )
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On the way down Pisco! Huandoy in background

It was my second time on Pisco but apparently a lot had changed in the years The path from basecamp into the Moraine had become so steep they'd installed a chain for people to down-climb. Some go to say, this is the crux of the climb. I'd disagree by saying the hard part is waking up at 1h am in order to summit at 7h. In the andes, people usually summit around sunrise so they can be off of the warming glaciers as fast as possible.
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Pisco summit in the background.

So, Timo and I left camp around 1h30 am. We kept a good pace up to the glacier.
But I could see my partner was slowing down as he would ask for breaks every once in a while. On the other hand, I was pretty cold and not really wanting to stop. As we got near the summit, Timo told me he had enough. He encouraged me to reach the summit alone as there were no longer any cravasses. I disagreed to leave him, but after a little arguing, he got me bursting my lungs out on the last segment. I was breathing fire, but I made it up there and back in around 10-15 minutes.

We tied in again and got back to camp around 12:30-13h which made for a massive day!
We immidiatly retreated to our tent and sleeping pads.

I dreamed of what I had just seen, the best view in the world, for the second time!

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The view from the summit of pisco!
We woke up the next morning to walk back down to the road and hitch a ride up the valley. It was a good day to travel because the weather was bad and it was snowing hard at basecamp.
As we made our way into Yanapaccha's camp we met several teams that where retreating back to the city. Having been shut down by the bad weather and without extra food, leaving basecamp was their only option. An argentinian team was the only team to stay for an extra day, to attempt the summit again.
As we settled in to camp, we also met a six person slovenian team that had also just arrived before us.
They had plans to climb Huascaran, the highest mountain in the range. When I told them that no one had yet made it to the summit up to that date, it didnt seem to bother them. They where a confident team that moved quick and travelled light.
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In the tent at Yanapaccha basecamp.

The next morning as I peaked out of the tent's fly, I saw the argentinans preparing for a second attempt. The slovenians just like us, decided to wait another day as the sky looked heavy again.

I watched the hedlamps slowly walk up the glacier until they got lost in the fogg. I was worried for the three argentinans. A few hours later at around 7am I saw the three man team walk back into camp with their heads low. They'd been beat again. The weather on this mountain was notoriously bad.
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Vew of the summit as the weather clears on Yanapaccha

I crossed my fingers for a better day to come!
The next morning my alarm went off at 2:30 am. It was cloudy enough to snooze untill 3:30. At that moment the summit looked clear and I urged my partner to get going!
We ran to the glacier's base and clipped our crampons on.
As we weaved through the broken glaciar and it's crevasse systems the sky decided to turn gray once again.
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Timo frontpointing up Yanapaccha

We where about half way up when it became a total whiteout. We continued up not knowing exactly what lay ahead anymore. At one point near the top there was a crevasse with a really thin snow bridge. It freaked me out pretty good. But that was not going to stop neither of us. Timo was ready the brace himself as I tiptoed across the bridge. I did the same for him. Once on the other side we traversed right under the summit and frontpointed our way up some 40 to 50 degree slopes of snow and ice. As I reached the summit I stuck a picket in the snow and sat with a leg dangling on each side of the thin ridge. The weather at this point was really bad so we chose to head back down following the steep ridge to a rocky outcrop where we rappeled down our 70 meter rope. At this point it was hard to see but I still noticed a new crevasse wich had to be jumped over. So I told Timo to watch me as I leaped across. At this point we knew we had only easy terrain back to our tents.

We continued on to basecamp as we both expessed how epic this ascent felt and how much we enjoyed the climb even without the glorious view! It was great.
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Timo at basecamp of Yanapaccha

With the weather getting worse and our bodies feeling tired we decided to go back to the city of Huaraz to make new plan's for our third mountain.
We changed plans for a multipitch rock-climb instead of an alpine ascent!
We chose to go for the Sphinx (5325m), the largest big wall in Peru!
It's a 1000 vertical meters of serious rock-climbing. We chose to try the original route, graded 5.11.
It is 20 pitches of granite cracks in the middle of the cordillera blanca!

As we were walking up the approch trail we met pro-climber, Emilly Harrington. She told us it was a hard and fun climb but most of all, she said our route finding skills had to be on point because it got cooooooold in the afternoon.

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Emmily Harrington, Vincent Kneeshaw & Adrian Ballinger

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On the approach trail!

She wished us good luck and we all continued on our way!
The next day went like this:
I'll give you the short and sweet version!
We did get lost, we did get cold, we got frustrated, but we climbed all the crux pitches and had a blast anyway.
It was fun to get away from the apline for just a few days to be back on real-rock!
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Day off Bouldering. The Sphinx at the back!
I reccomend the sphinx for all the hardcore adventurers out there! It's a mad place to be!
Climbing at 5000 meters in altitude, it aint easy! For this reason, I want to lift my hat to all the guys that realised these routes at the start and made it possible for us to experience these adventures!
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Gotta love the Andes!
Thanks for climbing with me Timo !!!
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The winning team!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Adam Ondra Sends "Project Hard," possibly the first 5.15d.

Yesterday, on September 3rd Adam Ondra sent what would be the first 5.15d.
His route called ''Project Hard'' is found in the massive granite grotto of the Hanshelleren Cave, Flatanger, Norway.

The futuristic line is basically a 45 meter overhang linking a few of his previous routes in the cave all together.

It follows 20 meters of 5.13+ to a kneebar rest; then, a few meters of jug hauling lead to a 10-move V15... hahaha. Obviously, this is the crux involving upside-down toe-jamming and impossible fingerlocks on a hanging prow. Two more cruxes follow: one V13 and the other V9. 

Here is a little teaser video of him working the line back in May this year.
In this video, he links an adjacent 5.15b into the second crux of the project. 

Seriously though, this is just insane!!!
Cant wait for the full clip to come out!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Climbing in the Grands Jardins!

Climbing in Charlevoix region is heaps of fun. We drove up for a late august week-end.
We climbed on of the most famous cliffs in the area called Gros-Bras.
Gros bras is a 250 meter rock-wall which is known for adventure type climbing. 
You have to expect loose rocks, wet cracks and lichen everywhere.
For this reason, we chose one of the more traveled lines for our first time in the area.
We climbed ''Hals Und Bienbrunch'' which means good luck in german.

We started at 9:30 am

As I was climbing up the first pitch Roxanne screamed to alert me there was a black bear no more than 20 feet away from her. So I built a quick belay station in the middle of the pitch so we could get her off the ground as quick as possible.

From there every thing went pretty smoothly until the top.
It was a great week end.
Here are a few snaps from the climb!

Stay Rad,
Vincent Kneeshaw

Monday, April 10, 2017

The blissful north Shore of Quebec

I went to the Quebec North Shore for the first time in July 2015. I was up there for work; we had a team of scientists and students collecting data concerning an invasive species, the spruce budworm. The spruce budworm is a bug that eats the needles and destroys most pine and spruce trees. The job was great as we spent our days outside and we moved around a lot to sample different parts of the forest. While driving along the ‘’Toulnustouc’’, a well-traveled logging road, I noticed the massive cliffs that were for the most part still unclimbed. These walls, to me, made most climbing areas established in Quebec look like nothing interesting. I had brought my gear and I got to climb a bit. But in the end I only climbed what was already established. Mostly we worked hard and spent our week-ends fishing.  At the end of the summer, I left the untouched rock as it was and set off from the north shore with this feeling of unfinished business.

The guys from the team called me again this year and asked if I was up for more work. I gladly accepted. The guys there are amazing people and I knew I was in it for some fun. They also told me that they had started climbing and wanted me to bring my trad rack. Hugues, the field manager, was especially keen on pushing his limits and trying something he had never done before. As the days passed we looked at every cliff trying to find a big project. We were looking to establish our first multi-pitch trad route. The cliff we chose sits next to the 37th km of the “Toulnoustouc” road. It is a slightly slabby face which stands 95 meters high. We took a few pictures from the road to help us pick out the perfect line. From there on we started putting our skills to the test. We spent days placing and taking out gear on single pitch routes, we went over our anchor building skills as well as bailing strategies. We expected the line to be fairly easy but we really had no idea if it would go smooth the whole way up.  For Hugues, it was going to be a first of many things. We had to go over a lot of big wall climbing knowledge to make sure everything we did was 100% safe. It didn’t matter how fast we were as long as we were in control. I felt a little nervous at the start of the summer, but as the days went on I became very confident we could pull it off.

On the morning of the 24Th we both had a big breakfast including eggs, bacon, potatoes and coffee.  I had chosen a special set of nuts from my dad’s old rack that I was ready to abandon up there in case of an emergency rap.  I threw them in the bottom of my backpack. We drove up the road with all the excitement in the world. It might not have been the most amazing line out there but it sure felt like it. We parked the car by the side of the road, racked up and started scrambling up the boulders towards the base of the wall. As I started up the crack we had chosen I felt confident and happy because the line felt just as easy and smooth as I expected it to be.  The only annoyance was the lichen that covered both sides of the fissure.  After about 30 meters of easy climbing we set up an anchor on a tiny ledge with a few trees growing on the bit of flat rock. From there we decided to modify the original idea and follow an attractive crack going leftwards. The challenge was the section between our anchor and the start of the crack. I placed only one little piece of gear and pushed through a good section of face climbing still comfortably under our limit. We judged it fine to run it out before placing my next piece. The crack itself was pretty similar to the one in the first pitch; covered in lichen, shallow and full of dirt, but at least the view was getting better. As I started to set up my anchor from the top of the 2nd pitch, Hugues told me his aunt named Muriel had passed away the previous morning. There was something special about what we were doing. We felt privileged to be up there with such a beautiful setting. We were alone surrounded by kilometers of forest. I am sure she would have been super happy to hear of our climb that day.

So as Hugues followed his way up I asked him; what do you think about naming the route after her. He smiled and said that was a great idea!
As we got up the top of the third pitch filled with pride we screamed our victory towards the valley in honour of Muriel!

It was the perfect project for the time and skills we had. I am looking forward to next year’s goals already. We graded the climb 5.7 and hope she will get a bit of traffic in the years to come.

Vincent Kneeshaw

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My trip to the greek paradise - Kalymnos

Arriving on the island
I didn’t have many expectations towards climbing in Greece. I surely didn’t think it was going to be as relaxing as it ended up being. For 20 euros a night, we found a luxurious studio by the sea, like all the other astounded rock-climbers. The accommodation also came with access to a nice roof-top pool. As if the sea wasn’t enough, our slice of paradise just happened to be located in front of what is probably the most photographed climbing crag in the world. We sat at the Grande Grotta’s feet.

On my third day, I was climbing a line that required my middle finger to pull through a perfectly shaped mono-pocket. As I thrusted myself upwards, I felt a sudden burn in my middle finger. My tendon had just ripped one of my pulleys.  Sadly that was it for projecting. On the other hand, I got to spend more time at the beach or walking around taking pictures. 

Climbers Hôtels and Studios
I discovered a welcoming Island with more climbing family’s than I had seen anywhere else. I took the time to appreciate every single sunset we were offered. By the way, the sunsets on Kalymnos are seriously mind-blowing. It feels like a dream, every time. We had a kitchen with some of the best olive oil. We cooked meals with a smile on our faces and ate the food like it was our last day on earth.

For me, Kalymnos is a lot more than climbing. It’s the land of blissfulness.
Here are a few pictures from the trip:
Panoramic view of Telmnos Island
Johanna Gagis-Pamula
Kristian Gagis
Roxanne Chenel
Roxanne nearing the Anchor
Daniel Norris

Roxanne Chenel
The view of the crags from the studios rooftop!
Me - Vincent
The famous grota
Here's a special thanks to the friends we made! (Daniel, Joanna, Kristian & Tadziu)
Vincent Kneeshaw

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Red River Gorgeous

Roxanne Chenel on Amarillo Sunset 5.11b Photo: Shaw Tron
The Red River Gorge is possibly the number one climbing destination on the entire east-coast of North-America. I had heard of how amazing the sport climbing was in the gorge. It's crazy jug-hauls and stunning scenery!  I soon realized that the thing about climbers in Kentucky, is that they've all been there before and they'll all be back again and again. I was shocked to realize that I was one of the only climbers visiting the Red for the first time. I was a rare bread . That, for me, was a clear message that the Red River Gorge has more than anyone could ever ask for. As my partner, Roxanne, and I spent our first days in the gorge we discovered something beautiful. We discovered the orange sandstone faces covered with natural Iron-oxide bands. The Iron formed the strangest mandala-type of rock art cemented deeply into the Kentucky cliffs. Our jaws dropped. It was like climbing in a dream, we pulled our bodies up into massive hueco's that where perfectly placed at mid height, between the ground and the anchors. We swung on overhanging roofs from a bucket-jug to another. 
Vincent wanting To defy laws of tradition 5.10a

Pocketed cliffs

As we arrived in the Red River Gorge, I was sure I'd be crushing all 5.11's and 5.12's in a matter of days. I was humbled to learn that my endurance level wasn't ready at all for this level of steepness. After a two month break from climbing, I got flash pumped on the easiest looking 5.10's. It took me a while to build up the energy to start climbing what I was expecting to climb! Its hard not to get frustrated at first. This is the reason guy's like Arno Ilgner teach us to climb without ego and without any expectations including grades! I guess, this is also one of the reasons why climbers keep returning.

Cyril working The Grim Reaper 5.12
Vincent's Onsight of Another Doug Reed Route 5.11b
The other reason why climbers are drawn back to the Gorge year after year, is the rapidity of the expanding crags. The route setters are unstoppable and the crag development is far from slowing down even after all these years. To this day, there are three hefty-sized guidebooks that cover climbing in the Red River Gorge. One guide is for the North, one is for for the south and another is for a brand-new sector called Millers fork. The Irony about Miller Fork, is that only 6 months after publishing the book. Most people are saying that the topos are already seriously outdated. There is just way to much climbing to be done in one trip.

Obviously, the Red is known to be a sport climbing destination above all. But that should not take anything away from some of the incredible trad routes to be found in the area. There are heaps of amazing traditional routes you can find amongst the kingdom of bolts. I recommend the northern book for all the tradies, but you will find some 5 star cracks in the southern gorge including Miller Fork.

''The Iron formed the strangest mandala-type of rock art''
Here is a Must do tick list for trad:

-  Bedtime For Bonzo 5.6 (North)
-  Roadside Attraction 5.7 (South)
-  Cheaper than a movie 5.8 (South)
-  Arachnid  5.8 (North)
-  Autumn    5.9  (North)
-  Pall Bearer 5.9 (Miller Fork)
-  Blue Runner 5.9 (North)
-  Rock Wars 5.10 (North)
-  B3     5.11 (North)
-  Rebar 5.11 (South)

Now for the sport climbing tick-list, it is a little harder to cut everything down to a handful of climbs. I remember saying ''this is the best climb we've done yet'' after almost every climb. My tip for you is to plan on spending a day per sector and bring a good car to manage the dirt roads that lead to most of the cliffs. Most sport climbers enjoy spending time in what is called the PMRP or the Motherload and Chocolate factory sector. The road is very steep to access the parking areas, so if you don't trust your car don't go down there! But don't worry there is a lifetime's worth of other climbs to try out

Here's a few sport climbs off the tip of my tongue:

Grim reaper 5.12b (Miller Fork)
Ro Shampo 5.12a (South)
Witness the citrus 5.11c (Miller Fork)
Amarillo Sunset 5.11b (South)
Fuzzy Undercling 5.11b (North)
Mona lisa overdrive 5.11b (South)
Breakfast Burrito 5.10d (South)
K.S.B. 5.10d  (South)
A brief history of climb 5.10b (South)

Roxanne on Fuzzy Undercling 5.11b

Roxanne chilling on Mona Lisa Overdrive 5.11b

Crit on Samurai 5.12b

Now for a place to stay; the cheapest, most obvious place to stay would be Miguel's Pizza/Campground.  They make delicious pizza and offer a 2$ a night stay! It's the perfect dirtbagger option. You can also stay at Lago linda's, It's a quieter more relaxed Hideaway. It's a great place for dogs to run around and great if you also want a Shower... Showers at Miguels also exist, it's just more of an adventure! Finally, there is also the Land of arches which is similar to Lago lindas. It's in a different location, depending on the areas you would want to go to!

Roxanne Flagging the shit out of Ro Shampo 5.12a

All in all, for me Kentucky was a lot of fun. The taste of the good bourbon we had down there is one of my fondest memories. The whiskey just makes it an ideal place for climbers! Again on the plus side, the good'ol Kentucky accent wont let any traveler down. It just makes me so happy when I get to chat with the locals!

Red River Gorge! I'll be back!

Vincent Kneeshaw
Rad Climbers