West Cost Labor Day Trip Report Part 2

Saturday morning was by far our earliest start.  By this time there were 9 of us, and most were up before me.  We ate a quick breakfast at the campsite, and before we knew it we were all loaded up and headed to the crag.  Gavin informed me that he had just talked to Mike, who had left San Jose at like 6am; Mike didn’t know how to get to the crag, but would meet at the campground at noon.  I acknowledged this and as planned we went straight to Area 13.  We spread out on the Left side of the Area 13 wall and began climbing all of the fantastic multi-star easy grade climbs.  One of my favorites was “Ugly, Fat and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen.”  It was an airy arete with great holds everywhere.  On this climb, you don’t really climb, you fall into a methodical progression that requires almost no thought.  The holds are there, the clips are even, the feet are obvious, yet the climb is delicate: it was like dancing.  If I ever get the balls to solo a climb, this would be my first.  It’s easy, exposed, and would surely make me look like a Queen dancing up it with only a chalk bag.

Before I knew it, Gavin was reminding me it was afternoon.  For some reason, I thought that Gavin’s mention of Mike in the morning meant that he would be picking him up.  Needless to say, there was a miscommunication.  I pulled off my harness and headed back to camp, woke Mike up from his hour long siesta, and we headed back to Area 13.  The rest of the day was lazy and careless.  Everyone was having a great time, and there was plenty of PB&Js to keep everyone satiated.  So just before leaving, I nudged Mike and convinced him to go with me to check out Maltese Falcon.  Maltese is a 4-star 5.12a that is one of the more famous in the area.  Having never red-pointed a 5.12a outdoors, I had made it my goal to crush this climb during this trip.  So we left the group and walked off to find the Maltese Falcon wall.

Mike helped me sequence the climb, and off I went.  Clip 1 was pretty easy and provided a good rest.  The sequence felt good and I had only deviated a little, but before I knew it, I had clipped 5 of the 6 clips on this route.  I thought I had it in the bag.  I was going to blitz right past the outdoor redpoint for the grade and nail an on-sight, or at least I thought.  Clip 5 is right next to the crux.  A large sloper-undercling leads to a high left-hand Gaston lock off.  After 3 tries locking-off then retreating back to the rest, my forearms nearly screamed “take” for me.  After one hanging rest, the move seamed easy.  I was at the 6th clip, reached for the remaining draw, and it wasn’t on the side I expected.  When my hand reported empty, I shifted my weight to reach to the other side, and SLIP! Whipper!  After I finished, I belayed Mike as he sent with no problems.  “I’ll rest tomorrow and send on Monday,” I said to Mike.

Mike making quick work of "Dirty Dancing." 5.12b on Holy Wars Cliff.

We rallied the troops and headed back to camp.  Everyone seemed to split up at this point.  Some had to go into Mammoth Lakes for food and supplies for the weekend.  Others went for a shower.  Chris and David stayed at camp. Mike humored me by riding along to the hot springs.  And after a fruitless attempt to find the other hot springs in the area, we stopped by the one form the day before to find it packed.  “Spirit Wind” was there again, this time naked, and hilariously hitting on a group of 3 young uncomfortable-looking downhill mountain biker boys while ignoring the 3 middle aged women right next to him.

We were the first back to camp.  David and Chris already had the fire going.  We all cooked our own dinners and began to drink.  Chris began working on a blueberry cobbler, which he cooked with only a blanket and his farts (Dutch oven).

Sunday we went to The Alcove, a section of the Main Island area.  The alcove has some great climbs, most are 5.10- with a few pumpy, but fun 5.11s.  We spent most of the morning and afternoon here.

Mark showing off some of the awesome thumb-catches at The Alcove.

At one point Justin wanted to get some pictures from above, so I gave him a belay.  By the time he had gotten to the top and screamed “off-belay,” I was already doing the bathroom dance.  So as soon as he was safe I took off, leaving Justin to think he was stranded.  When I returned, I jumped on the sharp end and headed up towards Justin.  Dana wanted pictures too, so she made Justin, who had climbed without a shirt, cook in the sun for one more climb.  But it was worth it, Justin got some awesome shots.

Dana crushing "Peanut Brittle."

It was warm on Sunday, so when someone suggested we bail and head to the lake for some cold beer, just about no one complained.  It took a little time to get everyone mobilized, so we got to the lake right around Sundown and the temperature was already dropping.  But on the bright side, we had beer!  As I recall, Dana and Derek grabbed the only full submersions in the lake.  The rest of us sat on a log drinking beer and began to clean the dirt from under our fingernails as we realized that we would not be taking lake baths like the two straighties on the trip.

Beers at Twin Lakes.

Sunday night was a repeat of Saturday, only this time we had eight times more wood to burn, mostly because the previous nights fire was fueled by David and his saw; he was able to procure copious amounts of fuel from a downed tree in the area.  So that night we burned the hardwood that I had purchased from the local hardware store, as well as the bushels that magically appeared at our campsite at some point during the day.  After finishing my dinner, I saw David looking up a the the trees far above the fire.  “Pretty, huh?” I said to him as the hot air from the flaming pit made only one section of the tree’s leaves dance in the otherwise still air.  “Pretty? I’m afraid they’ll dry out and catch fire.”

Throw another log on Gavin!

Well, we didn’t catch any trees on fire, but when we woke up Monday morning, we found two notices from the Ranger, one for leaving food unattended, and another for not dousing the fire properly.  Woops!  I was embarrassed.  I certainly knew better than that. So when the ranger rolled up as we were dousing the fire.  I took the brunt of the responsibility.  Luckily they were pretty cool and let us off with just the warnings.  Hilariously though, when I had walked back to Justin, Dana, and my campsite, Justin says, “That ranger just came by and complimented how clean our campsite was!”  I rolled my eyes and laughed.  At least we didn’t start a big gay forest fire, because that shit would have been hot, fierce, and unstoppable!  (Note to Roland, update the trip information to include proper fire conduct, i.e. bring a shovel and the last to bed douses and mixes.)

When we got to the crag on Monday, we all had planned to spend the day on Stoned Wheat Thin Cliff, however, only Justin and Dana ended up getting on the wall there.  They attacked “Pull My Finger” 5.10a, 17 bolts, 180′ 3 pitches.  The rest of us went to The Potato Patch.  Mike and I warmed up and strung up some TRs.  Although Eric had a few stiff lead climbs remarking, “I don’t know why I do that shit,” after Mike had given him props for doing a delicate slabby lower section with a sketchy first clip.  All the while we were watching Justin and Dana slowly making progress up their exposed climb that seemingly can be spotted from anywhere in the canyon.  After just a few climbs for me we all headed over to “Maltese Falcon” so I could give it a second shot.  This time I did worse.  I fell off the crux 4 times before I realized I had the beta completely wrong.  Oh well, next time I’ll get it.

About this time I saw Justin and Dana throwing the rope down off the top.  “I guess they’re rapping down,” I thought to myself.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ll say this, Nick and I ran up a 3rd class gravel field to free their rope after they had rapped only the first pitch.  We all learned that when you climb in large groups, something that could normally be a pretty scary situation is quickly solved with a little communication.

Justin and Dana screwing around on the top of "Pull My Finger."

Clarks Canyon, as described by rockclimbing.com, is “a beautiful climbing area with mostly sport routes.”  More accurately, “Clarks is fucking beautiful, and at 7000 ft altitude, I hope you don’t mind seeing your lunch more than once a day.”

Connor, swishin' it up a bit.

West Coast Labor Day Trip report Part 1.

Coming off the high of the annual Homo Climbtastic trip to the NRG, Chris Black, Leader of LA’s Top Out Rock Bottom sent out an email to the other West Coast group leaders.  He suggested a late summer, early fall rock trip for us left coasters.  We discussed dates and destinations, and at least considered not wanting to steal any glory from the Labor Day Rumney trip.  But after realizing that all the likely Rumney trip candidates from the west were on the thread AND too broke to fly out (and furthermore that it was unlikely we’d steal any Rumney attendees) we decided on Labor Day weekend as well.  Now you would think it would be easy to find rock climbing in California that is not only hospitable during the month of September, but also approximately equidistant for both the Bottoms and the Flashers.  However, as it turns out, there is only one: Clarks Canyon.

Clarks is tucked away behind about 5-6 miles of single-vehicle-wide dirt road.  The approach is trecherous… for your car. The road has large rocks in the middle of the road, and bushes that threaten to key your car on either side.  It’s like playing “would you rather” with a masochist AND a rapist.  However, Gavin seemed to make quick work of the approach in his Celica (I’ll wait for the results from his mechanic before I make it official).

As a co-leader, I wanted to get an early start, so I headed out of San Francisco at 3:30pm on Thursday.  I took Friday off, and had the goal of getting 4 days of climbing in.  I rolled into Big Springs Campground late Thursday night, and surprisingly, there were still several camping sites open.  However, I recounted camping there before.  It’s primarily inhabited by enthusiasts of the all-terrain: getting woken up by the “rad-it-tat-tat” of a large 2-stroke engine is not exactly my favorite stroke to wake up to.  So I decided that I would continue in the dark down the not so well marked windy dirt roads to find the primitive “Clarks Camp”.  When I arrived I was initially thrilled that there were no other campers in the entire campground.  So I parked my car and set up camp.  The sky was clear and there was no moon.  I could see every star, but not much else.  There was no wind, and the only noise was the rustling my sleeping pad made when I would move slightly to turn the page in my book.  Then, abruptly, there were noises in my campsite.

I shut off my headlamp and began thinking to myself “There is a bear outside my tent! Holy fuck holy fuck holy fuck.”  I was all by myself; I, unlike the southerners from HC’10, did NOT have a gun; and I didn’t even think of bringing bear mace.  I was armed with a small red button on my car keys labeled “Panic.”  However, like most, I had never pressed it.  Nor had I read the manual, so I was afraid to press it: in fear that I could not turn it off, and that it might disable the ignition until the battery died sometime after the bear had already gotten used to the noise and chomped happily on my brains.  Once the steps seceded into the silence, and my heart rate had dropped below 200, I fell asleep clutching my car keys against my chest with both hands.

The next morning, I was reading: waiting for Chris and David to arrive.  I was startled by the same noise I had heard the last night.  I spun around quickly to see a bird rustling in the underbrush behind my tent.  I still maintain that it was a bear and not a bird.

Chris and David arrived shortly thereafter in a giant, red, gas-guzzling, stereotype-shattering truck: a 1979 Ford Bronco.  The both hopped out and claimed the large campsite a hundred feet away from mine, where most of the others would camp and we would have our fires in the evenings.  We all jumped in Chris’s truck, and rode the remaining 2 miles of washboard dirt road to the crag.  The Bronco, unlike any of the other cars on the trip, had no problem with this road… well… except for Chris’s occasional push of the dashboard back onto it’s fully upright and locked position after being rattled nearly onto his and David’s lap several times.  Never before had I felt the almost uncontainable impulse to yell, “YEEEE-HA” followed by a drawn out “Sonofabitch!”  But I contained myself.


The 3 of us climbed at Area 13, a great volcanic rock with slabby to vertical climbs filled with pockets typical of volcanic climbs.  And although not all of the holds were good, seemingly every hold had a small thumb-catch that would transform a sloper pocket into a bomber pinch.  Most of the routes were below 5.10, and were all classics with only a few climbs at or below a 3 star rating; most were in the 4-5 star range.  This, we decided, would be a great place to bring everyone tomorrow for a nice long warm up the next morning.

Chris chaulkin' up at Area 13.

As Friday drew to a close, and since the three of us constituted “the group” thus far, we decided that visiting one of the hot spring tubs would be an excellent pre-dinner activity.  So we headed out and checked in, via text of course, on all of the converging Bottoms and Flashers.  Dinner was to be at 7:30 in Mammoth Lakes.  Now 6:30, we were racing to squeeze in our hot dip.  We arrived at one of the tubs in a grassy field a few miles from the Mammoth Airport.  There were 4 men in the tub, and 3 were getting out.  So we jumped in and started chatting with the one remaining man.  He had long hair, and wore a old cowboy hat.  He identified as a “local” although he also said that his camper was just over the hill.

The scene couldn’t have been more picturesque: there were a few large bull wondering around in the amber fields as the orange sunlight beaming down on the vast landscape was cut in half by the towering mountains to the west.

The local started to tell us about how he was camping on an indian burial ground.  He knew this because he had spent the day digging a hole for his second-hand recliner to nestle.  And he told us about his “friends” that put on a show for him after kicking back in said recliner.  One was black, one was white, and all the women were “hussies”.  The black one and the white one got in fights often, but the white one always seemed to win.  “The white won had all the power, naturally,” he said.  We all shot a look at each other as if to say, “We’re not in the city anymore.”  The local saw this non-verbal communication and qualified his statement, “I’m talking about cows, of course.”  We all laughed.

When asked what the local does for work, he rambled off about “unlimited funds” and “giving back to the world.”  Which I think meant not much more than, “I have a nice truck, possibly because I won the lottery” and “I sit in this hot tub and act like a crazy hippie.”  He then insisted us on “showing us” by taking us on a spiritual journey that was supposed to help us live in the moment.  It was so silent that for the first time that I began to hear the Enya-like music coming from his truck, as if on cue.  Chris and David looked scared, and I decided to provoke the hippie by reaching out and grabbing his extended hand.  He told us all to “reach in, close your eyes, and feel your ass.”  I think Chris was about to reach for his because, the hippie qualified, “feel your ass against the tub… your legs warmed by the water… etc etc.”  It was actually quite fun to think about all of the things he listed from the wind that seemed to gust almost at his will, and the sunlight on our faces.  But at the same time, we all knew this guy was crazy and we had to get to dinner.  So I told him we had to leave and asked him his name.  “I have many.”  So I asked for his favorite. “Spirit wind” he replied.  I almost cried trying not to laugh.

At dinner, the group expanded one carpool at a time: first Mark and Derek, then Gavin and Eric.  Justin and Dana met us at the campsite about the time we were throwing around Gavin’s magical illuminated disk. (This is not a euphemism.  Although I’m not sure it could be, it sounds like it is.)  We all set up camp and went to bed, eager for the climbing that tomorrow would bring.

Gavin's Magic Disk

Connor, bears, news, oh my!

This is my first blog entry on Homo Climbtastic, so I’ll take this opportunity to introduce myself.  I’m Connor, and I climb gay rocks, er, um, I’m a gay cock climber, damn, I’m a gay rock climber, there, nailed it.  I’m other things too, which is why I’ve always had a hard time with labels.  So in reality, I’m just Connor, and you can call me anything you like (but people usually stick to Connor, because I’m also a gay mixed martial arts expert).  More on me in the future.  Mike (check the ambassadors section) and I (mostly Mike) started Flame and Flash, San Francisco’s Bay Area LGBT Climbing Club, after his trip to Homoclimbtastic ’09.  And we have three things to share with the larger Homoclimbtastic audience; no, not our combined number of balls this time, but real news-worthy news:

Nick and Steven

So do you remember when you were a kid, and barbie was your hero?  (Or GI Joe if you’re a top or a lesbian).  I had that same feeling today.  Twice.

Who's up for sloppy second and third?

Nick and Steven, two of our Flame and Flashers went to Cologne, Germany for the 8th Gay Games.  They both competed in the Sport Climbing Competition and won Silver and Bronze respectively!  That’s right, Flame and Flash has gay medalists (medalistSSSSS, that’s two motha fuckas, count’em) and we couldn’t be more proud.  Well, I guess we could, but one of them will get gold next year, at which point we will be more proud. Either way, they trained their asses off, which in Nick’s case meant trying to quit drinking and making it almost a whole week, and in Steven’s meant going on National TV and dancing on a wall.  These boys deserve our recognition, so next time you see them, give them a pat on the back, or a handjob, because they’ve earned it.  Next year, I hope to see some of our ladies up on that podium!

Labor Day Weekend

As many of you know, Labor Day is approaching faster than the train that Nick and Steven are likely running on some Germans right now.  And we, Flame and Flash along with LA’s LGBT climbing group, Top Out Rock Bottoms, are working our waxed asses off to bring you the most FlamingTop-and-FlashyBottom-Filled event ever!

So read up, show up, and bring a dress (or camo-cargo-shorts if your a lesbian).  Post questions on the event wall, or email one of the event admins.

Knee Pads

Finally, “You’re getting knee pads!”  No wait, I mean tanks.  Mike has designed, and WE have ordered (that’s right, I do shit too) our new Flame and Flash tanks!  As if your swishy climbing style wasn’t enough, the next time you flash a hetro’s project, you won’t have to say shit, because the gayest tank top ever will practically scream “I’m here, I’m queer, and I flashed your goddamned project.”  The tank might also ask said hetro to have sex with you, because these tanks have a mind of their own, and let’s face it, you wanted to ask but don’t have the balls.

Flame and Flash tank back graphic.

And BTW, you’re all going to look damn sexy in them.  What’s that you say? $15 each for a tank that will convert hetros? What a bargain!  We’ll announce when we receive them, and we’ll bring them to our FnF meetings.  If you believe in god, and he prevents you from coming to an FnF meeting, you can still get your hands on one by asking nicely.  Supplies are limited, so suck it in!

I’m hard on, get me off.