Author Archives: Calvin


About Calvin

Calvin Laatsch guides canyoneering, rock climbing, and mountain biking trips at Zion Adventure Company; he also consults staff and clients alike on Norwegian customs, smooth dance moves, and the latest in dirtbag fashion. Bring your binoculars with you on the Zion Scenic Drive, and there’s a good chance you’ll see Calvin WAY up a wall, testing his mettle in form-fitting jeans.

Travel Journal: One Wild and Precious Life

Sitting on the Seattle Link train, I was immensely entertained watching a little girl playing with her mother; making faces, burrowing her face in her mom’s shoulder, and asking questions about the passing scenery. Across the isle from me, a man was watching the pair with furtive glances. His eyes revealed the simple pleasure of seeing someone completely free. There was something in his expression, however, that did not fit. His eyes betrayed a tremendous smile, but, with visible effort, he kept his mouth tightly shut. Something kept him from expressing how joyful the moment was. I didn’t get to see it, but I bet his smile splits his face from ear to ear, is filled with big white teeth, and is often accompanied by rolling belly laughs. I have thought many times about all that was contained in this moment. Seeing the struggle on the man’s face reminded me that I am robbing the world of joy when I do not express myself fully. I was on my way to visit a Waldorf school, that morning, where I hoped to learn how this alternative program addresses self expression. My friend, Massimo is being home schooled with a Waldorf curriculum, … Continue reading

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Travel Journal: On the Bright Side

Greetings from Zion! I am back after a few months of (F)unemployment and have many adventures to reflect on. I found people to let me sleep on their floors all over the country, had opportunities to play in the mountains, snow, oceans, and cities, and did my best to learn something every step of the way. Starting the spring season at Zion Adventure Company, I am optimistic. Anticipating my return to Utah, I had some great discussions about what had guided my travels, and what ultimately was bringing me back to Zion. It is hope. I don’t know if it is inherent in the landscape, the people, or in myself, but there is something that pulls me towards the chance to discover a better version of myself. The opportunity to test myself against a new challenge is all the impetus I need. My quest to learn to surf this winter is a perfect example of this. I have a vision of myself riding waves with fluid easy movement, and with only a vague notion of what surfing was about, I stepped on a plane and allowed my hope to carry me into the unknown. Being a guide and instructor, it would … Continue reading

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Gear Review: Petzl Ange Carabiner Nails Clean Nose Design

In the midst of a long climbing trip, climbers have a special event called Rest Day, a break from a week of leisure to pursue an entire day of deeper leisure. Writing this blog allows me to salvage some sense of accomplishment from this particular Rest Day. I can only sit by a pool, read a book, eat, and surf the internet for  so long. I have been climbing in El Potrero Chico, Mexico for the past five days and my fingertips are so raw it hurts to wash my hair, let alone grab onto sharp limestone edges and do anything resembling a pull up. I can, however, review the Petzl Ange carabiner. The Petzl Ange is commerically available in small (S) and large (L) versions, but we have been using only the Ange L. So, here goes… The idea of a”clean-nose” carabiner may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes snagging a ‘biner while clipping can make the difference between falling and sending. Since clean-nose solid-gate carabiners were released over a decade ago, carabiners have improved very little. Lightweight wire-gate ‘biners have replaced the solid-gate, but most wire-gates sacrificed functionality for weight, and reverted to the hooked gate. Several … Continue reading

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Gear Review: Totem Basic Cam Improves on CCH Aliens

When the Spanish climbing company Totem announced their intention to begin producing a cam based on the classic CCH Alien I was excited about everything but the name. Perhaps marketing is done differently in Spain, but here in the ‘ol US of A, companies go to great lengths to come up with cool names, flashy packaging, and sex appeal for their new products. Totem, however, went with “Basic Cam,” a name that would avoid drawing any special attention to their new product. It is like they are telling us, “Basically, this cam has some springs and cam lobes. It is nothing special, and it is used for crack climbing. Buy it if you feel like, it is the one called ‘basic cam’…” Well, I can believe they are so confident about their craftsmanship that the cam will sell itself. Without wasting time and money on marketing, maybe they can make this a profitable venture by sending them out to people like me, who are so excited about new equipment that we can do some marketing for them. Dang, maybe the Spanish know more about marketing than I give them credit for. So here it is, glamour shots, glowing review, and … Continue reading

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Mountain Top Reflections: Desert Oasis

My first draft of this blog post was a detailed description of my recent Red Rock climbing trip. The salient points were, a) I am good at climbing rocks, b) I know some good places for Asian cuisine in Las Vegas, and c) I am moderately witty. Realizing I spent far too much time coloring such a story, and valuing your time, dear reader, I will spare you my narrative of rock climbing heroism, and ask you to trust me on these points. What I would rather illustrate is the notion of finding one’s self through suffering. By “one’s self,” I mean some greater understanding of who I am, or what I’m capable of. Whilst climbing last week, on the side of an obscure rock, miles from anybody besides my climbing partner, I found myself fully panicked and hyperventilating. Tiptoeing and thrutching up the face of a mountain, I surprised myself by resisting gravity over and over again. The route (Time’s Up, 5.11d) had an exclamation mark next to it in the guide book; I interpreted this as a sign of exciting climbing, and it certainly delivered. The climbing itself was not unique or terribly difficult, but the protection was … Continue reading

Posted in Autumn, Rock Climbing, Spring, Trip Reports, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

CCH Alien Cams – Coming Soon

I had a bunch of equipment and personal items stolen from my car while I was out climbing in St. George yesterday. It was a fairly upsetting experience, and without going into it too much, I have yet another opportunity to grow and to let go. I am reminded of a question asked about another upsetting experience this year. A co-worker asked, “Is it a problem or an opportunity?” His words echo in my head today and have helped me step back and find a new perspective. So, I have the opportunity to buy a bunch of new climbing equipment. In the midst of researching climbing gear I stumbled upon some information regarding CCH Alien Cams. These have been indispensable parts of my climbing rack, especially for aid climbing. For the past two years I have babied my few Aliens, because they are no longer in production. Well, I discovered today that Aliens are BACK. This discovery is very exciting for a climbing nerd like me. For a minute I forgot that I was preparing to spend a thousand dollars on new climbing gear. Anyhow, Aliens are set to be released by two European companies, Fixe-Fader and Totem. Both are … Continue reading

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Mountain Top Reflections: Perception

“Perception is reality.” This is the golden rule of business marketing, which I heard repeatedly in my college business courses. While I have always held an aversion to the idea of the manipulating anyone’s reality for business purposes, I feel like this perception/reality concept is much more interesting and pertinent in my personal life, and I have been reflecting on it lately. I was talking about relationships with a client this week, and I found her vocabulary interesting. She referred to herself as “unmarried” (instead of “divorced”); instead of saying “ex-husband,” she said “my children’s father”. At first, I thought she was avoiding reality, or demonstrating some hip, progressive vocabulary. For a couple days afterwards, I thought about these unusual labels, and it eventually dawned on me this woman was not trying to evade judgment for getting divorced, but simply use vocabulary that framed her world in a way she found helpful and positive. I am so used to thinking about divorce as a failure, I have difficulty reframing it; my client was shifting the perception, and identifying things for what they are rather than what they are not. Genius. Talking about your ex-husband emphasizes the end of a significant relationship, … Continue reading

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Mediocre Mountaineering

Inspired by some of the moderately technical summits in Zion’s more remote corners, my Zion “to do” list has been expanding lately to include a number of minor,non-technical summits. A couple of weeks ago, I scrambled to the top of the North Guardian Angel with Nick for a quick afternoon adventure; this weekend, the memory of adjacent Pine Valley Peak pulled me to return for another fun summit adventure. There is something freeing about standing on a summit and seeing the canyons and mesas stretching out across the horizon. It is a special sensation. To be unbound by canyon walls, to sense the vastness of the area, and to feel a lightness that technical climbing rarely allows. I climb in approach shoes with sticky rubber, packing a rope, water, food, a harness, some carabiners, belay device, and webbing. There is evidence of past climbers on these routes, yet the slickrock encourages me strike out and find my own path up the meandering cracks and ledges. The Purcell guidebook has route and equipment information on Zion summits helpful in planning and executing a successful climb, but the descriptions are rough enough to maintain a good sense of adventure. Back in Washington’s … Continue reading

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Living in Fear or Living in Love

At the end of each summer season, we witness thunderstorms, tarantula mating, and the shift from full-speed guiding and outfitting to a more casual pace. It’s also the time when ZAC staff members and many other folks around Springdale make decisions about where they will live and work next year. At Zion Adventure Company, it can be challenging and emotional to consider what our community will look like in the upcoming year… How will we cope with the loss of key Adventure Team Members and what new characters will join our ranks in 2012? For my own part, I have great difficulty predicting where I’ll be in the future. I find it hard enough to envision where I will be during the coming weekend, let alone the next calendar year. Perhaps it’s in my nature to create situations in which I must embrace the last-second developments and allow my situation to direct me one way or another; it seems to have worked for me thus far. Yet now, once again, I struggle with the question, “Where will I be next year?” And short of banging my head against a wall, I have battled with influences that pull me in many … Continue reading

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‘Tis the Season: Late Summer Adventures in Zion

Ahhh, August is here. The desert is still hot, the thunderstorms are coming and going, and for many it is the last chance for a summer adventure. I offer this post as a guideline on how to maximize this time in Zion and the surrounding area. Climbing, for me, is the most important form of recreation, so I will start there. There are few sports that offer such extreme physical challenge and such inspiring rewards. Even when it is 100 degrees outside, climbing in the shade is amazingly reasonable. Shady cragging opportunities exist all through the main canyon for those who can find the right aspects and times of day. One of my favorite summer climbing areas, Kolob Canyon’s South Fork of Taylor Creek, features cool temps and shade most of the day. Perhaps the most exciting and challenging summer climbing I have done is in Kolob on Huecos Rancheros (5.12c) and Namaste (5.12a). Also, Last Rites (5.10+) is a super-fun single pitch finger crack with a bolted start. St. George also has some fun summer climbing opportunities. Enjoy the novelty of Veyo’s Crawdad Canyon Climbing Resort; if you go, don’t miss “The Fly” (5.11c), right off the pool deck. Snow … Continue reading

Posted in Canyoneering, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Seasonal, Summer, The Narrows, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off