Accidental Exploration: Breathing Life into Work Travel

Those of us lucky enough to spend quality time on the road, know life isn’t as fun sleeping in crummy hotel rooms and eating equally crummy fast food. But I say, having been traveling quite often for work, spending weeks away from home. You have to look beyond the confines of your hotel room and

By |June 11th, 2014|Guest Post, Travel|0 Comments

The Best of Busking: 3 Top Destinations for Street Performers in the United States

By Rebecca Johnson A life of travelling can be highly appealing, but few of us have the accommodations (or deep enough pockets) to travel year-round. However, financial limitations and standard accommodations aren’t needed for everyone while travelling throughout the United States. A rare few are bold, resourceful, and talented enough to pick up the lifestyle

By |May 30th, 2014|Guest Post, Travel|0 Comments

Guest Post: Bear Grylls and Humble Pie

Today I am switching gears a bit and throwing the spotlight to my Omnigames team mate and fellow adventure Junkie Jon Bausman who is goin to talk about one of his outdoor heroes and how that relates to his experience in the games. Take it away Jon. - Patrick If I could meet one celebrity,

By |January 15th, 2014|Guest Post, Utah|1 Comment

Mountain Biking at Winter Park

September 3, 2011 WINTER PARK, Colorado – Patrick and I had hoped to mountain bike in Canyonlands or Moab, but things just didn’t work out. We had also planned to visit the Moniz family in Boulder, but upon descending from the summit of Independence Monument, I learned from Mike Moniz that he and his family

By |October 7th, 2011|Guest Post|0 Comments

Independence Monument

September 2, 2011 GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – The allure of the desert tower has long held sway over my climbing Psyche.  When I first laid eyes on Devils Tower in Wyoming in 2004, I knew I had to climb it – and I didn’t even start climbing seriously until 2009.  I’ve since climbed Devils Tower twice, and I will climb it again. So before flying west to join Patrick for the return trip east, I researched several classic towers located along our expected route back.  There was the Grand Canyon’s Mount Hayden, Ancient Art with its mesmerizing corkscrew finish, and perhaps the most famous of all desert towers, Castleton in Moab.  Unfortunately, my hopes of reaching these lofty summits were dashed by a compressed travel schedule and the oppressive late summer desert heat. Undeterred, I traced our prospective route and discovered Independence Monument, a 450 foot monolith within Colorado National Monument, just outside of Grand Junction.  It was farther north, which meant it was cooler, and it was practically right off the highway.  And, as chance would have it, 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of its first ascent.  It was perfect. The first ascent of Independence Monument was completed on June 14, 1911 by Colorado National Monument’s most fervent promoter and its first superintendent, John Otto.   Otto drilled numerous holes in the soft sandstone and pounded pipes into the holes to form a ladder of sorts.  The pipes have long since been removed, but the ever-eroding holes remain, and the route, still bearing Otto’s name, is now free.  Today, locals recreate Otto’s first ascent with a climb and a ceremonial flag raising on the summit each Independence Day. Our assault on Otto’s Route began at the home of Charlie and Diane Winger in Montrose, Colorado, about an hour away where we had stayed the night before.  Charlie and Diane were up a 5:00 AM whipping up a breakfast feast of Belgian waffles and fruit smoothies.  It was perfect fuel for the monumental climbing they lay ahead.  Charlie and Diane drove with us to the trail-head, and Charlie even hiked the forty-five minute approach with us. When we arrived at the base, we found that the trail-head sign-in book was correct – while there were many hikers along the trail, we were the only climbers.  We had the tower to ourselves. Patrick loaded his harness with his rack: set of nuts, stoppers, cams with several duplicates up to #2, one #3 and one #4.  I brought along a larger set of tri-cams to add to his weight. As I belayed and Charlie snapped pictures, Patrick worked quickly and efficiently on the 5.5 first pitch of 140 feet.  Charlie wished us well and departed as I began to clean the pitch, hauling a second rope in my pack as I climbed. Patrick had set a hanging belay at the first set of anchors, and I climbed past him to a large ledge where we transferred gear so I could lead. Pitch two is 70 feet and 5.8.  The beta suggests protecting the crux with a #4 cam towards the top of an overhanging off-width crack.  Thinking I had not yet reached this point, I used my #3 and pulled through the run out section only to discover bolted anchors just above.  The #4 was never placed.  Otto’s pipe holes had provided all the measure of security I needed.  Indeed, I placed just two pieces of gear on the entire pitch. Patrick took back lead on pitch three.  It begins as a class 4 scramble and ends with a traverse through the “Time Tunnel.”  Patrick unwittingly added a slight variation by scrambling up and over the signature Tunnel. We had now reached “Lunchbox Ledge,” which as advertised is a large, comfortable ledge with excellent views.  The ledge is so large there was no need to set an anchor.  Patrick belayed my lead on pitch four as though he was belaying from the ground. The final two pitches were two of the most unique pitches I’ve ever climbed.  Pitch four is a blank sandstone face with no place for pro.  Pitons however are available to sling, and a few steps chopped by Otto a century ago were protection enough.  I considered stringing four and five together, but opted instead to bring Patrick up to the chains, if for no other reason than to provide him with a better view of the final pitch. Pitch five begins as a 5.0 no pro needed crawl up a sandstone ramp of increasing grade.  About twenty feet up, I plugged a #2 tri-cam in one of Otto’s pipe holes – perfect placement.  The crux is fifty feet up as the ramp becomes vertical and an overhanging roof must be negotiated.  There are two pitons under the roof, but I chose to sling only the first one.  The final moves are fairly juggy, but with an excessive amount of gear hanging off my harness, and almost non-stop laughter as I pulled through, I think I made it more awkward than it needed to be. From the final belay station, which is also the first rappel station, there remains just a six-foot hop up to a spacious flat summit. Patrick and I spent about twenty minutes at the summit where the weather was perfect and the views were magnificent.  We signed the summit register, took the obligatory summit shots and it was time to descend.  With three single rope rappels from the top, and a final double rope rap, we were back on the ground. Independence Monument was very enjoyable, very unique, and I would commend it to anyone who is a solid 5.8 trad leader.  I also suggest you take the time to read up on John Otto.  He is considered by many to be the John Muir of western Colorado.  A skilled trail builder, and an avid conservationist, he was also an eccentric patriot who was jailed three times for “insanity.”  He married at the base of Independence Monument, only to have his wife leave him weeks later when she realized she could not adjust to his hermit-like lifestyle (he was fond of saying, “I live in a tent and I pay no rent”).  But the enduring legacy of John Otto is the 20,500 acre tract of canyon land just outside Grand Junction that, because of his vision, his labor and his persistence is now preserved for us all as Colorado National Monument.

By |September 23rd, 2011|Guest Post|1 Comment

Moab and Arches

September 1, 2011 MOAB, Utah – The original plan was to climb Red Rocks, just outside of Vegas. But with triple digit temperatures forecast, Patrick and I headed north and east in search of cooler climates to climb. We passed up Zion (too hot), and Mount Hayden along the Grand Canyon North Rim

By |September 21st, 2011|Guest Post, Travel, Utah|0 Comments

Mount Rushmore and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Thursday, August 11, 2011 Editor’s Note:  For the last thirteen days this blog has been the story of an adventure began by Patrick Gensel and Bill Urbanski, and then joined on August 7th by David Weaver and Maraya Morgan.  Patrick, now traveling solo in Seattle, will soon take on the challenge of climbing Mt. Rainier. 

By |August 17th, 2011|Guest Post|0 Comments

Yellowstone

CODY, Wyoming - Wednesday August 10, 2011: Our Teton adventure behind us, it was time to play tourist for a bit.  We drove the hour or so north to Yellowstone National Park, our nation’s first National Park.  Our schedule as usual was compressed.  Seattle was calling Patrick.  David, Maraya and I were being pulled in

By |August 16th, 2011|Guest Post|0 Comments

Grand Teton Report

MOOSE, Wyoming – The proposed climbing schedule was, in retrospect, a little nuts:  four sea-levelers trying to run up the Grand Teton in a day, unguided, and with no prior experience on the mountain.  The team got close, but ultimately we did not reach the summit. We bailed at 13,000 feet at the

By |August 11th, 2011|Guest Post|0 Comments

OR Wrap and The Grand Teton

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming -- The Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City has come to an end.  For a first timer, it was a little overwhelming and in many ways a blur.  Patrick and I actually had a "light"schedule compared to some we know (Jason, Josh, etc. - you know who you are). Nonetheless, we

By |August 8th, 2011|Guest Post|0 Comments
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