birthday challenge
October 3, 2012 posted by

Birthday Challenge Is Set

So I might as well make it official and put the pressure on. I need something to kick my training to the next level so here it is. Since the year is ’12 and I’m 51 going on 52, 512 is going to be the theme for this year’s challenge. What I have planned has high potential for an epic fail but, as the saying goes, if you know you can do it than it isn’t a challenge.

In one day:

8 first ascents
5 of them 5.12
on 5 different rock types
in 5 different canyons + 1 mountain done with 2 modes of self-propelled transport (biking/hiking) totaling at least 51 miles with 5,200’ of elevation gain
and, to keep it pure, I’ll add 51 ounces of beer and 2 King Pin fritters

This isn’t the kind of Herculean enduro fest I usually set-up. Volume isn’t the issue; it’s the ability to perform at a high level throughout. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. It could only work if I could find 5 hard routes in my local canyons that haven’t been done and, given SLC is one of the most popular climbing centers on earth, that was no picnic. But when I recently sorted this part out it had to be on. Most of these routes are right at my current limit, or a bit beyond—-perfect! So the key will be to both improve my top end game and the ability to maintain it all day long. A fine challenge indeed.

I like to make my challenges unique and this is another I’m sure has never been done. 5 X 5.12s probably narrows the field to a handful, maybe, but the opportunity of 5 different types of rock and canyons in one region is what sets this apart before even bothering to try and find someone who bike commutes to their climbs.

Of course, I haven’t done it either and there are so many places where this can go south it’s almost not worth discussing. The one thing I can control, fitness, is marginal to start. I’ve not done 5 pitches of 5.12 on anything I didn’t have super wired since, probably, 1996. So there’s that. Hey, it ain’t birthday pretty hard.

History and rules

I got this idea from Trent Baker, whom I supported on an attempt to self-support (ride/hike) to 5 different canyons and climb a 5.12 in each. My birthday challenge that year was doing 4 routes each in 8 different canyons. This sounds harder but hardest route I did was 11b and many were under 5.10. The climbing aspect was much, much easier. The riding was more involved but I’m pretty good at riding a bike around.

This challenge was only worth attempting if I could find first ascents that were meaningful to me and the local climbing community. Being busy, I climb locally most of the time so it’s worth investing time to clean scruff near my home if I’ll go back to it regularly for training. What I’m doing for this challenge is cleaning up some forgotten crags and modernizing them with new routes to make them worthy as local training destinations. I’m psyched on the routes I’m doing, otherwise I’d have found a different challenge.

I’m cleaning ahead of time. It would be impossible to make the routes good if I didn’t and, for routes to be worthy it takes a lot of time and elbow grease-—especially for things that have gone unclimbed until now, meaning a lot of people felt they weren’t worth any effort. Sport climbing Fa’s are a public service. If you’re not up to doing a solid job leave it for someone else. My rule is to simple: make routes that I’ll go back to climb over just for fun.

vids: above is a good look at what putting up routes is like, all in a very nice setting. below is a funnier take, me going overboard in order to add 15′ of climbing to a traverse in a local canyon. oh, the things we do for sport!


  • Hey Steve,Can we get that rock back up so we get footage of it actually falling into the hole?

  • Are you, uh, trying to hurt your back? Jesus. You need an intern.Do the interns all carry glocks?J

  • No, they all share one.

  • Sounds pretty epic. I suggest you wait until the end of November when the days are shorter. Should make it a bit more interesting.Bien Suerte~El Gran Moto

  • Just slap that video straight into a Beachbody product for the new Natural 90 line. Call it "Rockin"The lead line on the back of the DVD could be "Tony would never do this kind of stuff…"

  • I have a great invention. I've taken a rowing machine and placed it inside of a boat. That way, you can get exercise while you go out on the lake.

  • Actually, as I recall, you "cleaned" that traverse because you couldn't do up problems due to your, ahem, injured back. Also, love Anonymous' idea. If you didn't have a non-compete with Beachbody I think you'd have a future in dinosaur training videos. Sequel should be you lifting it back out and filling the dirt in underneath it again. Then doing it all again. But that would probably make Phil jealous.

  • While I like the idea of the Natural 90 line and a return to true Rock n Roll, I think I am going to make some money from the republicans by selling them a link to your video.If a video of Mitt Romney digging a rock out of a hole in the middle of the desert went viral? Obama would have no chance.The title should beReal Men have returned, and they are ruling the rocks.

  • get a digging pry bar. Yes I know it will remove some of the challenge of your "Cool Hand Luke style workout," but you'll be mega cool carrying this thing on your bike!

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