Tag Archives: calvin laatsch

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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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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Unstoppable?

Last fall, Sam Tickle accepted a challenge: to push himself for 30 days, in 30 sports, in 30 US cities. The challenge is part of a web-series sponsored by EAS Sports Nutrition. Sam is testing the limits of athleticism. Without a rest day, or any way to prepare for the next sport, this is a training regimen that would destroy most people. Sam stopped by to visit Zion on Day 21 of his Unstoppable Tour, and I took him on a multi-pitch climb on Tooele Tower (aka Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth). Guiding Sam was only a small part of the adventure; there are many additional challenges on a filming shoot, with camera men, sound technician, director, trainer, etc. in tow. The goal of the event was “officially” to test Sam’s mettle in the vertical realm, but the day proved an adventure for the entire crew. Most of my guiding is with people that do not have a great deal of experience in the outdoors, so getting everyone prepared for the day was not too hard. But anytime I am taking people into the backcountry, I am very aware of the risks we can control vs. those we cannot. After … Continue reading

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Travel Journal: Cirque Du Soleil

I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil performance, Ka, this week in Las Vegas. I managed to find a promotional code on ebay for cheap tickets, and so, in the midst of my dirtbag camping and climbing trip at Red Rock Canyon, I donned a button down shirt, my grown-up pants, and loafers and went to the show. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did not expect to be greeted by ninjas flipping up and down the balconies, I did not expect the stage to dump the actors into an abyss, and I did not expect to feel so compelled to run off and join the circus (or cirque). It is hard for me to describe what I experienced, except that it was powerful. The salient message seemed to be that there is beauty in everything. The characters express beauty in the light and the dark, in fighting and in dance. In the context of my climbing trips, I was acutely aware of how effortlessly the characters moved. I want to climb with that sort of passion, to display art in movement.  I used to be a fairly accomplished gymnast, have always loved kung fu movies, and feel … Continue reading

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Travel Journal: My New Year’s Resolution

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! As one year ends and a new one begins, I find myself reflecting on my habits and reevaluating how I spend my time. The religious and cultural symbols of the new year, the changing seasons, and all the time spent indoors lately have prompted me to mull over all the possibilities for the coming year. For many, this is a time to distill lessons from the previous twelve months, to devote oneself to new disciplines, and to set new goals. I find myself doing the same. As I take stock of the past year,  I find so many moments committed indelibly to my memory, places and people that have impacted who I am, and my intention is to find even more in 2011. Having just finished touring the East Coast for the first time, I have a special perspective through which I am processing all this. When traveling, I feel a sense of urgency; I do not want to miss an opportunity to experience something, because I may not have the opportunity again. This makes me think of a class I took on improvisation. The rule in improv comedy is, “Say YES”. No matter … Continue reading

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Gear Review: Black Diamond Offset Micro Stopper

A review of Black Diamond’s newest passive protection should really take place in the context of the competition. BD’s offset nut is the first not produced by a British company, and Black Diamond (BD) is fighting for a niche market held by the HB Brass Offset for a long, long time. The HB Brassy has proven itself to be an indispensable aiding tool. When HB went out of business years ago, the brassies become a coveted piece of equipment, unavailable on the retail market until recently, when DMM bought the old molds and continued the production of these amazing little nuts. Now, BD has tweaked the tried and true formula, using bronze instead of brass for better durability, and utilizing a less aggressive taper. The width of the sides correspond almost exactly between the HB and BD offsets, but BD made their stoppers with a slimmer, longer profile giving it a larger surface area. When I finally got my hands on a set of these I had very specific ambitions to climb the Desert Shield in Zion. With a few hundred feet of sustained thin aid and pin scars, it was the perfect place to put them to the test. … Continue reading

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Autumn in Zion: Adventure Season

The season for adventure is ripe in Zion right now. The weather is ideal, crowds have thinned out, and permits are readily available. A huge rainstorm just came through the area, which has cooled things down, and filled the canyons with fresh water. This is the season for frolicking, splashing, and exploring.This month I have had the opportunity to descend Cave Creek, Imlay (via the sneak route), the Subway/Das Boot link up, Echo Canyon, and the daily canyon guiding outside the park. These routes represent the full spectrum of technical canyoneering in Zion. Each descent is unique, beautiful, and remote. I find release in this terrain because it lends itself to creative problem solving and having fun. Descending the Subway with a wetsuit, for example, allows ample opportunities for slipping and sliding, swimming, playing in waterfalls, and enjoying an enchanting natural playground. This is the ultimate form of recreation. Canyons are a medium for play, and while there is a certain risk associated with canyoneering, the exercise of exploring, of flirting with danger, and the unknown satisfies a primal desire. My conversation with guided clients often touches upon the need for recreation. It seems that the average American is overstressed … Continue reading

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A Change of Pace: Big Wall Freeclimbing in Yosemite

Yosemite Valley is to rock climbers what Mecca is to Muslims. Being a devout trad climber, I have been long overdue for a pilgrimage to the place where it all began, the home of the world’s most famous long, free routes. With exactly one week of vacation, a friend-climbing-partner, and a car packed with equipment, I set out to experience the soaring granite cliffs of the High Sierras, Tuolumne, and Yosemite. There were some very powerful moments on this trip. On day one, climbing Positive Vibrations (5.11a) on the Incredible Hulk, I caught our rope in a crack and ripped the sheath when I swung to free it. Dangling 600 feet up on a rock wall, I had some rather grim visions of what possible outcomes; confidence was shaken, we decided to retreat. This very humbling experience prepared me for the very full week of adventure to come… The next day, climbing in Tuolumne, was my favorite of the trip. I loved the variety of movement, the exposure, the acute sense of wilderness, and the endless high-quality rock. We climbed Lucky Streaks (5.10d) on Fairview Dome and had the route to ourselves, while groups jockeyed for position on the Regular … Continue reading

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Small Gear for Your Zion Free Climbing and Clean Aid Rack

Climbing in Zion is gear-intensive and specific; for most free climbs in Zion, the guidebook recommends a double rack from .5″ to 3″. There are many ways of approaching the protection dilemma, but there is a delicate balance between having enough gear, having the right gear, and not bringing so much equipment that it holds you back. Aspiring Zion big wall climbers should pay special attention to the small gear. Climbing above thin pro can be nerve racking, and feeling secure can be a tremendous mental challenge. The sandstone in Zion is typically quite good, but when you are climbing on small gear (1″ or smaller), it typically means the climbing is difficult, and you need to trust the gear to hold a fall. When you know and trust your gear, you gain significant confidence that helps you climb better. Passive Protection (i.e. nuts) The DMM alloy offset nuts are, hands down, the most useful passive equipment for Zion climbing, especially in the big wall and aid categories. These nuts are light, inexpensive, and fit pin scars and flaring seams where no other nut or cam will. The larger DMM brass offset nuts (sizes 4, 5, & 6) are also … Continue reading

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