Sunday, December 28, 2014

3 Days in August : The Mohave Desert : Long Distance Training

3 days in August, long distance training, bike, hike, paddle
Map - 3 days in August, long distance training, bike, hike, paddle

This is a story, not of excitement or heroics, but just of grinding out long distance across natural terrain using only muscle power and wit.

Mountain Biking, Hiking, and Paddling:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Speed Ascent : Half Dome Regular Northwest Face

Tenaya Valley (Upper Yosemite Valley), Summer 1987
Tenaya Valley (Upper Yosemite Valley), Summer 1987

Undoubtedly those few square miles of planet earth where Half Dome sits is one of the most striking, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The photo above only hints at its grandeur, you have to go there to experience it.

I've climbed that sheer wall, that north face of Half Dome, three times. Twice I guided it, once with some Navy guys and once with some Army guys, and once, the very first time I was up there, Paul van Betten and I were climbing it as fast as we could. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Endeavor Team Challenge : Race Report Team Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay

Team Endeavor Challenge 2013 - The Finish, Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay
Team Endeavor Challenge 2013 - The Finish, Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay 

Alpine, CA - 7, 8 September 2013

The first mention I saw of this event was, in the words of the organizers, two former US Army Rangers, “the Endeavor Team Challenge is a monumental test of fitness”. Paraphrasing the descriptions of the event I found on their website and Facebook pages - teams of 2 would face 30 plus hours and 40 miles of mountain summits, obstacle courses, lake and stream crossings, physical challenges, multiple long movements of undisclosed distances of 10 to 20 miles, climbing and rappelling, kayaking, mental challenges and stress, memorization/recitation, problem solving, false finish lines, extra equipment to carry, limited sleep, day and night orienteering, culminating in something called a Sole Survivor run, and at an undisclosed place and time teams would face another challenge, something called the OPT Battle Drill, a crossfit torture test programmed by Crossfit Games Champion James Fitzgerald.

Well, that sounded like a good time to me. Immediately I contacted Ryan Ross to form a team. Inadvertently we had already been preparing for this event because well, that's kind of what we do. Both Ryan and I have years of adventuring racing experience under our belts. Now supposedly we would need only to fine tune ourselves to the specifics of this event.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Times on Dream of Wild Turkeys, Red Rocks, Nevada

Manipulated image showing me soloing Dream of Wild Turkeys
A manipulated image showing me free soloing Dream of Wild Turkeys, top of the 2nd Pitch

Dream of Wild Turkeys: Black Velvet Wall, Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rocks, Nevada

Dream of Wild Turkeys is a 1400 foot rock climb. Back in the day, most climbers considered it 5.9 with maybe a move of 5.10a. It is a ten pitch climb. Pitch is climbers talk, it is the distance you can go on a rope before needing to stop and set up a belay. 

It is a spectacularly fun climb the whole way with plenty of climbing adventure. There is finger and hand crack climbing, there is easy off width climbing, there is water polished face climbing, there is sharp edged face climbing, there is exposure with big air below your feet, and the climb and the setting are beautiful everywhere you look, there are great views of the canyon below and of the desert beyond, and of cliffs left, right, and above.    

I think I've done the route 6 or 7 times. Of those times, I've soloed it 4 or 5, I can't remember. 

I do remember the first time I soloed it...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

July Desert Crossings : White Hills to Searchlight

Hiking during excessive heat warning July 2013
Hiking during excessive heat warning July 2013

This is a tale of two stories, hiking in July across the desert from my house in White Hills, Arizona to Searchlight, Nevada. In neither case did I make it to Searchlight.

The first story in 2012 is a good enough story. I started hiking just after midnight on July 3rd, it took me about 36 hours, the distance was about 50 miles, the elevation gain was over 6100 feet, temperatures during the day were over 100 degrees F, the swim across Lake Mohave was about 1 mile, and I made it to within about 3 miles of Searchlight.

The second story in 2013 is a story of survival.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fremont Canyon Bridge: A Hand Traverse

Robert Finlay, fantasy hand traverse over a canyon
Fantasy view of hand traversing...

Hand Traversing a Bridge High Above a Canyon

Above is a fantasy view of hand traversing a canyon. Below is the actual bridge over the North Fork of the Platte River which I hand traversed in 1987, although that is not a true photo either.

Photo manipulated re-creation of Robert Finlay traversing lower girder of Fremont Canyon Bridge
Re-creation showing the traverse of the lower girder of Fremont Canyon Bridge

The above image is a manipulated image, photo-shopped if you will, showing what I might have looked like crossing the canyon some 27 years ago. But below is the story...

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Portage and A Paddle in the Mohave Desert - April 7 - 8, 2013

Map of portage and paddle; White Hills, AZ to Cottonwood Cove, NV
Map of portage and paddle; White Hills, AZ to Cottonwood Cove, NV

One portages a kayak across land to connect two bodies of water or to avoid obstacles on a river. This portage, however, was from my house to the water, a distance of 28 miles, where I usually just drive my truck. Why in the world would I portage this distance? I have no idea, maybe to see if I could do it. But for some reason I had had a hankering to do this for quite some time. And so now, it was that time. 

The route was 28 miles and had an overall elevation drop 3784 feet, yet along the way there was 1000 feet of climbing to do and all of it on desert dirt road. 

Distance and Elevation Profile for House to Willow Beach Portage
Distance and Elevation Profile for House to Willow Beach Portage

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Steck Salathe on Sentinel Rock : Solo

Photo by Dirk Summers link:
Sentinel Rock in the Morning. Photo by Dirk Summers
The Sentinel is a beautiful and powerful piece of granite guarding the southern flank of Yosemite Valley. It is 3000 feet from the valley floor to its summit. It is - The Sentinel.

The Steck-Salathe on Sentinel Rock is a classic rock climb in every sense. In fact, it is one of the "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America". Originally a Grade V route, meaning more than a day to do, now it is considered Grade III or just a day of climbing. It has for decades been rated 5.9, but these days its rating has become more like 5.10 minus. It has always been known for being long, arduous, sustained, a route with a wealth of stories of adventure and history. It is famous for its chimneys, its squeeze chimneys, and its off widths. 

Here is a brief of the Steck-Salathe's history. Four attempts are made on the route from 1947 through 1950. And then, from June 30 to July 4, 1950, Allen Steck and John Salathé do the first ascent. Theirs is an epic five day story of adventure, determination, and intense deprivation. In 1953 Royal Robbins makes the second ascent, he also does the third ascent and establishes The Narrows as the primary passage. Henry Barber free soloes the route in 1973. Peter Croft free soloes the route in 1992 as a cool down after he and Hans Florine break the speed record of the 'Nose in a Day" on El Capitan. Derek Hersey dies on this route on May 28, 1993 while free soloing it and no one knows the exact circumstances. His body is found at the base of the route several days after he has gone missing. On July 2-3, 1994 Allen Steck makes his 44th anniversary ascent of the route at the age of 68 along with Brutus of Wyde and Inez. In 1996 Brutus returns to re-bolt the route.

What follows is my story on the Steck-Salathe.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2014

Paths Aligned - Druce Finlay, Robert Finlay, Valentin Chapa, Everglades Challenge 2014
Paths Aligned - Druce Finlay, Robert Finlay, Valentin Chapa at the Start Beach

Beyond Coastal (Cruising)
Everglades Challenge 2014 Report by Robert Finlay (IronBob):

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2013

Druce Finlay, Robert Finlay, Start Beach, Everglades Challenge, 2013
Druce and I, Start Beach, Everglades Challenge 2013

Luck, Grit, Laughter, Bliss
Everglades Challenge 2013 Report by Robert Finlay (IronBob):

Druce and I would paddle our boat Sunshine (at night her name is Ranger), a SEDA Triumph, a 3 seat kayak, using Quick Blade Sydney paddles in Class 2, paddle craft without a sail. Our eyes would be protected by NUMA Points. The sun shirts on our backs would be Haeleum, although this year it would be too cold for sun shirts except for day one.

I had trouble getting to this EC. I had surgery in December. The 30 day post op recovery didn’t end until mid January. That gave me just 5 good training weekends before the start. Walking around East Beach on Mullet Key on Thursday and Friday I just felt so lucky, so lucky to be here, so lucky to have such a good teammate, so lucky to have what was looking to be good weather for the upcoming challenge.

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2011

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2011
The Juice, The BluByU's and Salty Frog (Sharkchow is creating the wake on Druce's left ) - all of us having a nice paddle in the early afternoon of Day 1.

This year, 2011, we had a good run. We were the first paddle craft to come in, coming in behind only six sailboats. We finished first in our Class. We had trained for this race by paddling every weekend. Most weekends we paddled 35 to 55 miles. By race time we felt that we were "paddle ready" for this race.

We entered as a Class 2 expedition style kayak with no sail. We paddled the new SEDA Triumph triple as a tandem, 23' 6" by 25", and we paddled this time with Quick Blade Sydney Paddles.

Winds were mostly out of the south; southeast to south to southwest the entire race until you have to go east across Florida Bay then of course the winds changed to east. Although at one opportune time frame for us, while on a southeast crossing, the winds were out of the west!

There would be a big dropout (DNF) rate this year.

Depending upon course choices one may have a course of between 268 to 315 miles. Our proposed course for this year measured out to be around 268 miles.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2010

Druce Finlay off of Cape Romano, Everglades Challenge, 2010
Druce off the Naples Coast, Day 2 of the Everglades Challenge 2010

In March 2010, Druce, aka TheJuice, and myself, aka IronBob, would enter the Everglades Challenge for our second time. This time we would enter in Class 1, as an expedition kayak with downwind sail. We even kept the rudder on the boat, as opposed to our taking it off for 2006, ha, ha!  As of this writing, we have done the challenge in 2011, 2013, and 2014.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Epinephrine, Robert Finlay, Solo or A Rock Climb, One Guy, No Rope

Soloing Epinephrine
On the last few moves just above Epinephrine's famous chimneys...
Epinephrine is a rock climb. I've never had a rope on this climb, but over the years would climb it six times. Well, that's not quite true, I had climbed the upper pitches with a rope (a pitch is that section of a climb between two belay points) when Richard Harrison and I climbed Malicious Mischief, a route whose upper pitches coincide with Epinephrine. But that is a different story for another time. Here is my story of Epinephrine...  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2006

Druce on Highland Point with one foot on a WWII anti-ship mine.
Druce Finlay on Highland Point with one foot on a WWII anti-ship mine.

I have done about 20 expedition length adventure races that have included trekking, kayaking, horse riding, white water rafting, glacier travel, mountaineering, jungles, deserts, and who knows what else, but this would be my first expedition race with kayaking as the sole discipline.