Saturday, April 18, 2009

One of my favorite places

The whole point of this blog is to share my stories and photos from my travels so I figure it probably wouldn't hurt to tell a few stories from over the years and not just concentrate on the new stuff. A theme you will start to pick up on in my tales is that the conditions are never optimal, I am of the firm opinion that the more miserable the conditions the better the story is.
One such trip was my first trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota for three days of bouldering with three buddies. We decided to leave about 5 pm on friday and drive through the night since there were four of us to handle the driving. At about 3 am I am driving through Rapid City, SD  Jake is navigating and keeping me awake. All of the stop lights are flashing yellow so I am just taking it slow. Out of no where Jake tells me to turn left so I make the turn from the left lane instead of the turning lane since no one was around or so I thought. As soon as I made the turn lights went on behind us, I had failed to see the two different cop cars that were laying in wait. Come to find out that even though the lights were flashing yellow I missed that the turn light was red. Leigh who was in the back seat had woken up by this point which is good since I was driving his car. We told the cops where we came from, where we were going and that we were looking for a place to get off the road and get some food. Luckily the only thing the cop gave me was directions to an all night truck stop. After breakfast we hit the road again an hour later we had made it to Hill City, SD and to Sylvan Lake State Park just in time to scramble to the top of a cliff to catch the sunrise. We climbed till around 2 pm and headed off to set up camp. Once the tents were up it started to rain, hiding out in the tent it wasn't long before the night of no sleep caught up to me, I was out. The next two days were a blur of cold October days and nights but the sending was perfect, I even managed my first 5.10 lead, course none of us knew what the grades were guesses were as close as we had. The last night there we decided to get a room which proved to be a smart idea. It got so cold that night that the LCD screen in my DVD player I brought with froze, now it only plays in black and white. 
Two years later I made it back with my friend Aaron. I had planned a big project for that trip, I had about eight people lined up to go but about a week before everyone bailed out except for Aaron so we went anyway. This time around was in May so the weather was great but Aaron ended up coming down with the stomach bug his kids had when we left. But even that didn't stop him from sending V7s with ease. In all the years I have been climbing Aaron is probably the most talented climber I have ever seen, great blend of movement and power. The best part of the 2006 trip was meeting a climber by the name of Peter Lev. He used to guide for Exum and was now retired. He did a slideshow the night we met him, all of the images and stories were about his exploits in the Himalayas and other far flung destinations on government sponsored trips in the 60's and 70's. Back when we had to beat the Russians when ever we could. He told Aaron and me about a climb he did in Minnesota where they used a the steering column of his VW bus as an anchor to repel to the bottom of the cliff.

This guys name is Luke, met him on the 2006 trip with Aaron.
                                                                     Aaron 2006

Aaron in 2006

                                                                    Aaron 2004

                                                     Jake on a possible first ascent 2004

                                                             Bouldering right in camp.


                                                      Leigh warming up before a climb.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I just find this funny

Last year when I was in Joe's Valley the group I was with did all of our food shopping at the Food Ranch in Orangeville which also serves as the towns sporting goods store. Being a gear junky I had to check to see if they had any climbing stuff and I found this little gem. I love to see small towns like this do stuff to help out the climbers when there are plenty of other places that look down on us. I just find it funny that they chose to package the chalk they sell.

Photos on a beautiful spring day.

I am finally able to get out and shoot outdoors without me or my models freezing to death so I thought I should take adventage of it. I talked my friend Jenna into coming out and shooting with me yesterday and these are a couple of the shots that stood out right away. We didn't have any solid ideas before going out but I am happy with what we got. Everything was shot with a Nikon D300 and a 17-55mm f/2.8
This one was completely natural light. I prefocused and metered in manual mode then put the camera down to floor level to shoot.
I used a one stop Lastolite Tri-grip to difuse this shot. I held the tri-grip camera left and shot with my free hand.

Here I used one SB-800 on a Justin clamp in the rafters right in front of Jenna just out of the frame. Had it dialed down to -1.7 EV.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And now for something completely different!

This post is going to step away from the photography aspect of this blog and get into some of the gear testing. My favorite piece of outdoor gear is the stove and over the years I have acquired five of them and even made one. The two that I have found that have been working great for me are the MSR Pocket Rocket (top) and the White Box alcohol stove (bottom). Both have their pros and cons so lets start with the MSR.
-No preheating, once on the canister you just light it and its good to go.
-Will boil 2 cups of water in my Titan Kettle in less then 4 minutes.
-Has flame control, it doesn't have to run at full blast all the time.
-Flame is more concentrated so you don't heat up the wire handles of the Titan Kettle.
-Weighs in at 3 ounces for just the stove itself.

-Takes the canisters that you can't just pick up at any hardware store or gas station. Also you can't tell how much fuel you have left.
-When the canister is empty you still have to carry it with you and you have to make sure to puncture it before you can recycle it.

The White Box alcohol stove
-The stove is made from recycled aluminum bottles.
-Stove, windscreen and base weigh less then 3 ounces.
-Can boil 2 cups of water in the Titan in about 5 minutes with only 1 ounce of fuel.
-Whisper quiet (which is also kind of a con if your trying to use it in bright light since you can't see the flame).
-Uses denatured alcohol or even HEET (yellow bottle) which can be found at any hardware store or gas station.
-Can store the fuel in something as simple as a pop bottle so you can see how much fuel you have left and when empty it doesn't weight hardly anything.

-No simmer control, its pretty much full blast.
-With the original size stove the flames come out around the edge of the Titan which makes the wire handles get too hot to handle. They have since came out with a smaller solo model that is designed to work with the smaller pots.
-Even though the stove is very stable you have to make sure you don't tip it over since the fuel isn't really contained.

On a side note, it doesn't do much good to have a stove without a pot to put on it and I have as many cook-sets as I do stoves. My go to set-up for the last two years has been an MSR Blacklite which I can't even find on MSRs website anymore. They probably discontinued it since they had always had a problem with the nonstick coating flaking off. I never had a problem with it since I never use metal utensils when I am camping. This system came with two pots that nest together, a lid, pot lifter and a wash cloth sized camp towel. Making it the choice when I go out with a group. When I am going solo you'll find the MSR (titanium) Titan Kettle. Works great as a pot, mug or bowl. The biggest complaint I have heard about this pot (aside from price, titanium isn't cheap) is that the lid fits too tight. It does fit tight, to the point where it is best to just set the lid on top when cooking, otherwise you have to grab hold of the pot itself to get the lid off.