September 18, 2013 posted by

Birthday Challenge 2012: Making Lemonade

Birthday Challenge 2012: Making Lemonade

I never posted a final report on last year’s birthday challenge since it was such a tempered “success”. I did post on the first attempt, a complete failure, which perhaps holds some entertainment value in this video.

I’m finally getting around to it, for reference, since I’m going again as a part of this year’s challenge, which I’ll announce next week. The original challenge goal was to do 5 5.12 first ascents (and 8 total) in 5 different canyons all bike supported. By my late November birthday the canyon roads were too icy to even attempt. I suppose a fat bike would’ve been possible but it would be very slow for short days. Also, the first ascents I chose to clean were simply too hard for me to do without good conditions (note failure in vid), or at least right on the edge of possibility, so I nixed the bike and went for just the climbing.

hanging draws in big.

It all started well. With completely numb hands I some got to the anchors of route 1 and 2.

Next canyon and back to the nemesis, where I failed. Not once, but 4 or 5 times, all at a different place between 5 and 1 moves from the anchor. Now not only couldn’t I complete the full–abridged–challenge, but I was hammered as I’d used up as much energy as the whole thing might have taken (minus the hiking) if I’d done it first try. Anyway, we moved on to see how many FAs might still be in the cards.

even in the most trying circumstances, team zissou keeps moral high

The next route was even more bouldery then the last. Three or four failures, all at the end, and things were unraveling fast. Ben was falling near the end, too. While at least that confirmed some difficulty, it seemed like the plan had just been way too optimist.

ben bearing down

Anyways, it went, but barely. I was so tired that I nearly lost it clipping the chains. Lucky it was so short.

ben belays while finn spots

Fortunately the next route was more techie, meaning I didn’t need as much strength. It went first go and, even though the day was waning fast, it infused some optimism into the day, or what was left of it. We hustled up the steep approach to The Reef, where two potential FAs waited.


I did the easier one first, in one go (whew), which got me number five. This seemed like a pretty good salvage after so much failure on the day. It was a personal record for me, five FAs in a day, which I think I’d done before but never in five different climbing areas. I’d be surprised if anyone had done that, or even attempted such a thing for that matter. Went for #6, in the dark (we had lights), but a fierce wind was blowing and I couldn’t feel my hands at all and fell about half way. Ben decided it was too sadistic. Romney just laughed at us for being stupid. It was just getting colder so we bailed, and that was that.

#5, electric jellyfish

In the bar that night we knew the whole thing was possible, even in my current form, given better conditions. The added element of riding certainly upped the difficulty, though in a way I’m familiar with, and the entire endeavor was going to hang over me until I get a chance to try it again.

movember in full swing

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