The Burdo Zone


Monday, October 27, 2008

"Control Freak" 13d FA: Part I

The farmers are laughing at the sunset
and the cows are starting to howl
The wives are dancing backwards and
the police are crying "Foul";
There's no one who could dig their way
out of this air-infested hole
without a gun that hums a song
as they struggle for control

I drove down a star-lit road a while
until my passengers all bailed
There is no way to tell whether anyone else
has succeeded or they've failed;
The actor up upon that stage
is playing a minor role,
and the band is warming up their knives
while I struggle for control.

Now Princess Grace has spilled a gallon
of blood across the floor,
She does not want to let go
of her side of the door;
Removing one of two left dancing shoes
with a roadmap on the sole,
There is no need for celebration-
no more struggle for control.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The climber in me relishes every day that the rock is dry, but after a great string of perfect rock days, I am very ready for Nature to change things up, briefly. That is what She did yesterday, as I woke to rain pattering the roof and the filtered light of a socked-in forest outside. By mid-day the precipitation eased off, and I was in my running shoes and cruising down the dirt and gravel road towards Hart's Pass. This is a run that is too dusty and trafficked to be fun in the summer, but on a day like yesterday it was a perfect glistening path into the mountains.

The climb up to Dead Horse Point is one that winds along the base of Last Chance Point, a 7000' summit at the terminus of the Methow Valley. With a perfect running surface of firm dirt, sand and a little gravel, I get my rhythm, my stride opens up, and even as the grade steepens I feel more lifted than impeded. Golden cottonwoods and crimson maples pass by as I work through the evergreen forest, and soon I am at the dramatic viewpoint at the "Last Chance Switchback".

This is perhaps the most iconic view of the Methow Valley, with the river winding below through the peaking autumn colors through the widely carved valley towards Goat Wall and beyond towards the grassy hills of Winthrop and eventually to merge with the Columbia. On this day, with the sun emerging through the clearing storm clouds, spotlighting the glacier-sculpted ribs of The Wall, the whole scene has a peaceful yet epic ambiance.

I continue, and round a bend to get a view up a side canyon, with greens, golds and reds dancing up the sidewalls to a cap of freshly snow-dusted crags, thousands of feet above. Suddenly a black form appears midway up,the silhouette of a Golden Eagle as it wheels upward on a thermal. It is almost stereotypical of the grand beauty of the American West, but I have learned to accept these moments this for what they are, in the here-and-now.

I run past Deadhorse, with it's massive adjacent void of the silver-snagged West Fork of the Methow River valley beyond, back into the mountain firs and my turnaround. The descent, which if paved would be a knee-jarring drop of over 1000 feet, is instead a gravel and sand cushioned float, which I lean into slightly and lift my knees to cruise as lightly as possible, visualizing the possibilities of races to come.

The rain returns briefly in the final mile, hastening me to the warmth of the cabin and refreshment of a cold brew. Tomorrow I will put myself against one of the hardest climbs I've ever attempted. My mind is emptied and awaiting a new flood of instant memories.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


While September is my favorite month for all-around climbing appreciation, October is my time to "get serious" and focus on harder routes, especially hard projects. With daytime temps in the 50's here in Mazama, the holds are sticky and the air is alive with energy. Routes that would spank me a few weeks ago when collecting thermal capacity are now within the realm of reason, and it is like I suddenly have superpowers.

My current project is a new variation of the "Woof" mega-traverse route of last year, "The Easy Way Out". In this case, 80 feet of continuously overhung (to the point of near-inversion) cave-ambulation leads to a serious and dramatic bouldering pull of the front edge of the roof onto the headwall. As of yesterday I have linked major sections of the route and this weekend I plan to begin redpoint attempts.

The "beta" of movement engrams is now becoming wired into my subconscious, and I am now feeling "embedded" in the midst of a journey that may play out in a matter of days, or weeks, or not at all (it would take some really bad luck). Regardless of the outcome, the trip is worth every bit of energy and time I spend on it as reality seems to bend to meet the dreams I have harbored in my mind and heart for the decades of my climbing career. That this is a first ascent, a new creation in the choregraphed compendium of stone, makes the the wonder of it all that much more intense.

All the year I have been building for this, consciously or not. Now is the time to find my place on the cresting wave.

Photos from last weekend (10/14), courtesy of Jenn Quattrocchi:

10/19/08 update: A glorious day in Paradise highlighted by the good omen of finding a stray pink and white sheep/cat (stuffed toy) in the parking lot. Melissa says cat, Simon says sheep, I say "shat". The omen is fulfilled with my redpoint of "Out Of Control" hard 12d (new rating with missing foothold at the roof lip)...The Proj is latent of culmination...maybe omenized by a "Birds Of Surinam" coloring book on the trail next time?