A short while ago I decided that I should do the rest of the world a favor and create a blog! I know what you are all thinking, “OMG!! Now I can keep up with all the amazing things that Ian Cavanaugh is doing without constantly stalking him on ‘The Book’ or constantly asking everyone around me if they have heard the latest news on what Ian just sent!!” Unfortunately life once again intervened and I stepped away from my computer, again dawning my harness and rack and set off for the rocks. By doing so I left you all in the dark, not allowing you to live vicariously through me, I am sorry. Lucky for all of you I am now forced to take a little time off and fill you in on what my life has been like up to this point, or at least the year.
In the middle of December 2012 I packed my car and made the terrifying journey east from Idaho, through the Mad Max dream world of Wyoming and planted myself in the Middle Earth of ‘Merica, better known as Boulder, Colorado. Knowing only a few people it took some time to find a decent selection of climbing partners, but I eventually did and was able to get out pretty often. I was immediately captivated with the thought provoking climbing in Eldorado Canyon and spent as much time as possible there. I slowly started ticking off some of the classics such as Dubb-Griffith, The Naked Edge, Mellow Fellow, Mellow Yellow, Rincon and the Wisdom. While these routes were amazing and continually draw me back there were a few lines that stand out in my mind as phenomenal routes and will stay with my forever. These routes are To RP or Not To Be .12aX, The Evictor .12+R and Je’Taime .12c. To me these routes encompassed everything a great line should be. Thought provoking, powerful yet delicate as well as mentally and physically testing.
The Spring time could be summed up very simply in two words, Indian Creek! While we were only there for a short amount of time, this was by far my favorite time I have taken to the desert. Rest days were filled with a little swimming, exploring some of the other parks, a few days of amazing mountain biking and some much needed laughter filled relaxing with some of the best people the planet has to offer. While I didn’t amass any great tick list while I was down there I did get on some classics and finally felt as though I was able to actually climb desert cracks. My friend Lucas Hill and I were able to send Less Than Zero with a little work and just before heading home I finally made my own contribution to the Creek with a route I named Beer Run. I could not have asked for a better 10 days.
Late Spring and early Summer was filled of days spent in BoCan and Clear Creek Canyon, running around repeating some classics and a few not so classics. I had a few good sends including Maestro .12d in CCC and the incredible West Overhang in the Flatirons. Still I left many projects undone as the temperature rose and friction fell. In mid-June Artley Goodhart and myself headed west to meet Max Bechdel in the Beartooth mountains to try and complete a line Max and myself attempted 3 year prior. With 70-80lbs packed, we trudged in and prepared for 4-5 days on the West Face of the Lower Dublet. On our third day on the wall we reached the summit of one of the most captivating alpine walls I have had the pleasure to touch. After several rappels we spend the night enjoying a bottle of whiskey, a can of Chef Boyardee and laughing about everything we had just been through. The next morning, after a little convincing and a promise of a beer at the Grizzly, Max agreed to lead one of the crux pitches for some photographs. My hope was to capture some amazing images on this incredible face and hopefully convince someone to one day repeat this phenomenal route. After three years, 8 trips and enough rain to dub ourselves the ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’, Max Bechdel, Artley Goodhart and myself completed the first ascent of the west face of the Lower Dublet via our The Line of Constant Sorrow V 5.12- A1 11 pitches. I plan on returning next summer to go for the full free ascent.
The next month was spent just going out and having fun as well as working a lot. the majority of my climbing was done in the early morning in order to escape the heat. My friend Lucas Hill convinced me to head to the Black Wall on Mt Evans to attempt the second free ascent of a new route that was freed in 2012. He didnt have to work very hard to convince me. I had heard of this wall and this route inparticular from several people. With Lucas heading to Central America the next day, we only had one chance at this. We got an early start, anticipating the afternoon showers and arrived at the base of the wall around 8:30am. The Black Wall is a mythical creature as far as alpine walls are concerned. 600+ ft tall, a 20min approach, tops out at nearly 13,000ft elevation and you rappel to the base! Once you climb the last pitch, you are done! Alpine climbing does not get any more comfortable or convenient. On the crux second pitch I fought with everything I had but was unable to hold on. I saw a hidden crimp to late and didnt have enough left in me to stick the move. Lucas followed the pitch clean and we carried onto the top without any more trouble. We topped out around noon and enjoyed a snack on the rim looking down through the valley as the clouds rolled in over our heads. We were 1 move away from an onsite of Undertow. While I was a little frustrated at the time, it was an incredible day. Plus it gives us a reason to go back to that amazing place and once again climb that incredible route.
I know what your thinking right now, “My fingers tips are sweating and my butt is sore from sitting on the edge of my seat while reading about all these amazing things!” But dont worry, I am almost to end of this enthralling post.
In the end of July I was lucky enough to get on a plane with my family for an amazing trip through Eastern Europe. Starting in Sarajevo, Bosnia we worked our way west to the the coast of Croatia where we enjoyed some sun, swimming and a little sport climbing. From there we ventured north along the coast on our way to visit some distant cousins in Slovenia. After a day visiting the place my Grandfather was born and raised we spent the evening telling each other of our lives in our different countries over some home made wine. With the night turning to early morning it was time for us to leave and for me to once again pack my bag with climbing gear and head to the mountains. Two year earlier during my first visit to Yosemite I shared a campsite with a Slovenian by the name of Domen Kastelic. Though our only day climbing together was a failed attempt at NIAD we decided to keep in contact and hopefully once again share a rope. At 4:30am Doman picked me up outside my hotel and drove us to the Julian Alps while I slept, attempting to recover from the night before. When we parked our car I still had very little idea on our plan for the day. A short while down the trail Domen stopped and pointed. “This is what we are climbing.” In front of us was the 1000m face of Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. His plan was to take us up the classic route of Helba and then link it into the upper headwall route of Srp. I had never before climbed in the Alps let alone on any limestone as lose or angry as this 3000ft wall we were delicately dancing our way up. Just shy of 9 hrs we topped out. As I stood on the rim of the wall I peered down into the valley aptly name Vrata, “the Door”. Never before have I seen such an amazing view. With limestone walls rocketing out of the ground thousands of feet into the air, this was a place a dreams. Vrata makes Mordor look like a vacation resort. After a short drive home, back to Ljubljana, Domen took me out for some celebratory drinks in an artist district converted from an old prison. By our second beer we were already planning the next time we would share a rope. While it may not be for a while, it promises to be another grand adventure.
Two weeks later I returned to Sun Valley, Idaho only to find the valley on fire. For two weeks we watched as it burned the mountains surrounding the towns of Hailey and Ketchum, forcing more than half of the Valley to evacuate. More that 1500 fire crew member gave everything they had and saved that those great towns. After Europe I no longer had work or place to live in Boulder, I decided to stay in Idaho for a little while. Excited to get back into some serious climbing after only two day out in the last 6 weeks, I started to train. Jonathan Seigrist came back to finish up what he started at the Fins last years, helping to motivate me to get out and get strong again. After a fun day pulling on limestone pockets and laughing around a campfire, I awoke to heartbreaking news. A friend from Bozeman, Montana had tragically passed away in a terrible climbing accident in Wyoming. Kevin Volkening was an incredible person. He inspired everyone that knew him. He had an infectious personality that kept everyone smiling and laughing even when he was not around. His memory will live on through his incredible wife Marge, his family and friends. While your time on this earth was short, you made this world a better place. We love you Kevin, rest in peace my friend.
A few weeks later I was again back at the Fins, but this time with a few of my best friends from Montana. It was one of the best weekends of the years. We climbed hard and laughed harder. Kevin McCartney made quick work of a few .13s, Ethan James flashed his first .12 and Pat Dyess and myself both clipped the chains on a short but fun .13a call Hapachulo. But with the Fall coming quick, climbing at the Fins was coming to an end. It was time to shift focus to the granite blobs of the City of Rocks and Castle Rock. With one route on my mind I set off early one morning to clean and run a few mini-trax laps on a route described in Dave Bingham’s guide book as “the most badass lead in the City of Rocks.” In 1986 Stan Caldwell and Dan Sperlock set off up this intimidating line not know what they were getting in to. Nearly 30 years later this route may have never seen a repeat. With the gear and beta dialed, I was ready. I just needed a belayer I trusted and perhaps someone as stoked as I to repeat it with me. After a little work I was able to acquire Stan’s phone number and find out the true story about this mysterious route. It turns out that Stan and Dan had traverse into the upper difficulties, avoiding the first 40-50 feet of nearly unprotectable climbing.
Idaho Mountain Festival!! This is perhaps my favorite climbing event I have ever been to and this year was shaping up to the be even better than last. My best friend since middle school drove down from Denver with his girl friend, Jonathan Seigrist was going to be there crushing as usual, as well as most of my friends from Sun Valley. With poor weather friday morning, Ghetto Blaster was not looking like it was going to be an option. We soon, however, received word from a ranger that the City was receiving better weather. Too excited to wait I told Jonathan where to meet me and jump in my truck. I picked up Cody and Dana on my way and headed straight the project. Shortly after we arrived the weather cleared and it was time. I ran one more quick TR to remember my sequence and gear. With Cody on the other end of my rope and Jonathan with the camera, I set off. While the direct start is not as difficult as the upper crux, it is insecure, balance oriented and able to spit you off in a second. The gear as well is less than inspiring and somewhat difficult to place. But before I knew it I was at the rest and had rejoined the main route, now I just had to keep it together to the top. Once I reached the upper .10 ‘dessert’ hand crack I couldnt stop yelling! I lowered back to the ground to find Jonathan was stoked. He grabbed the rack off my harness and set off. In 30 minutes this route has seen more action than it had in nearly 30 years, and received a new direct start. We dubbed it ‘Straight out of the Ghetto’ .12+R. Two days later Cody Scarpella went up for its third ascent of the weekend!
That same weekend I began to work a route a friend had bolted several years prior and was still awaiting a first ascent. The first ascent fell quickly to Jonathan, inspiring both Cody and myself to get on this short but beautiful line. After Cody’s send on Sunday we headed straight to ‘Chumming’. I gave it everything I had but headed home with sore fingers and only a one-hang to show. I was close but still felt miles away. I returned the following weekend with that route as my only goal. A few attempts on Sunday left me feeling weaker than I had the previous weekend. My skin was thin and I was convinced I had no chance at it. Monday I promised that I would take my friend Conrad over to try it and give it one more attempt. After Conrad made quick work of the beta, I tied in and set off. I some how made it through the crux for the first time from the ground. I had one more move to a good hold and a semi rest when my fingers gave up and spit me off. That was it, it was over. 30 minutes later with temperatures dropping Conrad gave it another try. He moved quickly to the crux, but fell on the same move that had stopped me several times before. He came down and gave the sharp end to me. Tired, thrashed and skin free I didnt expect to even make it to the crux. I was in shock when I stuck the crux. I was back to my original high point when all the sudden my right hand exploded off a sloping crimp. Without thinking, my hand rocketed back to the hold as quickly as it exploded off, somehow catching myself from falling. My finger tips had split open on the crux razor crimps and the blood was oozing out on the every hold I touched. At the rest I was able to relax enough, I focused and fought my way to the chains. With the sun well below the mountains, behind the Comp Wall, it was time to go home. Elated and exhausted, I could be more ready to make that 3 hour drive back to Sun Valley.
As I sit here and type out this 9 month journey I realized what an amazing year I had. I have all of that to thank for all of the incredible people I climbed with, met and shared these amazing experiences with. Last weekend some of the most amazing people in Idaho all gathered in the nothing land of Twin Falls for a simple, underground-esque bouldering competition. A fun event focused more around the cleaning of an area and the community rather than the climbing. During the actual climbing portion, I fell and exploded my ACL. While I was disappointed with the idea of what I was going to be dealing with for the next few months, I turned my focus back to the event and gave all the support I could to my amazing friend Beau Stuart. I did all I could to help him move his pad, tally his points and give him all the support I could to push him to his limits. By the end of the event my selfish thoughts about my failure at the comp, the surgery and rehabilitation i would have to deal with all vanished. I was reminded why we are all out there, why we are all climbing in general. While my climbing season has come to an end, the world hasnt stopped. The granite, the limestone, sandstone, basalt, it will all be there when I am again healthy and able to climb.
So here I sit waiting for surgery, planning my rehab program/training program that I will be able to do while my knee is recovering. I know that the next few months will feel like an eternity but in a strange way I am looking forward to it. Stepping away from something that you have been so fully intwined with allows us to gain perspective. It gives us a chance to look at what is truly important, what we love and hate about what we are doing. I look forward to discovering how I feel and what I really find to be important in this mess that I call a life.