Monthly Archives: May 2018

A Weekend of Climbing – Competition and Smith Rock

A Weekend of Climbing – Competition and Smith Rock

Weekend of 10, 11, 12-Mar-2018



Friday, 10-Mar-2018


So far I’ve been to three instances of the PDX Pulldown – the first year where I made it into the open professional category, the second year where I had a broken knee, and now this, the third year in a row.

Each time it’s been a bit of a madhouse. Competitions always are, but this one was particularly impressive; they don’t cap attendance, so it usually ends up with a 30+ minute wait for any individual climb. But, in my opinion at least, it’s still totally worth it.

Why’s it worth it? What could make that much craziness and such a press of stinky rock climbers worth it?

The routes.

When they have a competition, they pull out all the stops. They bring in route setters from… I don’t know, route-set-topia? From somewhere. And they set interesting challenges; neat sequences, tough footwork, and powerfully dynamic moves. It’s awesome, and I love climbing them in the heat of competition.

The climbing went pretty well, although we went kind of lightly, truth be told. We could have probably pushed a bit harder and maybe even broken into the open category, but since we had a trip to Smith coming up over the next few days, we didn’t want to hurt ourselves or burn too hard. We need the fuel in the tank for the real rock climbing, instead of just competing in the gym, right?

It was an excellent competition, though. We didn’t end up winning any prizes for how hard we climbed, but we were both pretty proud of how well we did. On top of that, we won a few random raffle prizes, which is always nice. Nothing too nuts, but I got a $50 mountain hardware gift card, and Sarah got a set of stretching tools and a set of nutrition consultation appointments, which are also pretty neat.



Saturday, 11-Mar-2018

Our trip out to Smith was supposed to start on Friday evening… but let’s be honest. Who wants to drive 3 hours in the dark, just so that you can set up a tent, in the cold, sometime after midnight? No one, that’s who. Or… strange people, maybe? Not us, is what I’m getting at. Instead of driving out late, we decided to go early. Early to bed, early to rise, and early to drive the long drive to Smith.

Ollie was already in puppy camp, so our goals for the trip revolved almost exclusively around multi-pitch routes and big climbs. While Ollie can do well sitting at the base of the wall, she’s only good as long as someone is with her… multi-pitch routes, where both Sarah and I are on the wall for a few hours, don’t quite work with little miss separation anxiety over here.

Our goals hadn’t really been chisled into stone when we left Portland, but the drive clarified it up a bit as we sped on, deciding on what we wanted to work on.

That first day, we finally completed a long-standing goal of mine – a route I’d started calling “The Moscow Palace Traverse”. It’s not a single route, but instead it’s a traverse of the entire Smith Rock formation, starting on the East side with Moscow (a 3 pitch, 5.7 trad climb) and ending with a route called Matthew, in an area called Pleasure Palace (a single-pitch, 5.10 sport route). I’d come up with the traverse while climbing at Smith with Daniel a few years back, but had never had a chance to actually make it a reality.

But this was our time! This was our place! The Moscow Palace traverse was completed!

It went really well, too! Both Sarah and I got some successes in; Sarah led the two harder sections of Moscow, which had been giving her trouble for a long while. I climbed Matthew (not on lead, I’m sorry to admit), which was a really solid benchmark for me, since it’s a tough climb and I’m still a little unsteady on my healed knee. I busted it out though, and felt strong doing it. I think I need to start doing some more deadlifts though, to keep bulking the stabilizer muscles out a bit…

Anyways, the climbs went really well. The hike out went really well. Dinner… Ohh man. Dinner went so absolutely well, you don’t even know.

We made mac and cheese – a double portion, if I recall, made mostly with butter and a little bit of half and half. But we also made some chicken apple sausage, sliced it up, and added it in. Seriously, you don’t understand how amazing that meal is, after a whole day of climbing and hiking. It’s… well, I probably would trade it for gold, since gold is just super valuable. But… silver? I’d probably weigh it against silver, yeah.

After dinner, we embarked upon our final adventure of the day – sharing my ultra-light tent. I’ve had it since before I went to New Zealand, and it’s amazing for solo backpacking trips. It’s light, it’s small, and it’s quick to set up… all on top of being windproof and quite rainproof too. But… it’s small. As in, a bit cramped for two people, and definitely cramped for two people and a dog. So we didn’t want to test it out when Ollie was with us.

Results came back… neutral. Not super positive, since it was definitely pretty cramped, with not too much space for any gear. But not negative either, since it still easily had enough room for us, and it’s majorly lighter than any of the other tents that we’ve got. Will we take it on our next backpacking trip? Ehh…. maybe. Depends where we go, I think.

With that scientific experiment ongoing, we slept under the stars (in a tent, under the stars).


Sunday, 12-Mar-2018

While the tent experiment went well, our sleep didn’t go quite as well… not really sure what caused it, but somehow we didn’t end up quite as rested and refreshed as we’d hoped. Simple to solve, though, especially since the morning dawned rather bitterly cold. We just curled a bit deeper into our sleeping bags and slept in a bit.

Or… I slept in, I should say.

Sarah’s kind of a badass, so she didn’t want to sleep in. She wanted to wake up and make breakfast and brew up some coffee. When I say “she wanted to make breakfast”, I usually mean “Sarah looked at some food, then thought better of it and just drank some more coffee”. Today, though, it meant that she tied her hair back, rolled up her sleeves, and made us mini pizzas.

Yeah, seriously. While camping. Sarah made. Pizza. For breakfast. While I slept.

I woke up to pizza chips. It was unbelievably delicious.

I mean, I don’t even understand. I didn’t realize we had the ingredients for pizza chips, much less the option to have them as breakfast-in-sleepingbag. It was like waking up from a pleasant dream, just to find out that I was having another, even more pleasant dream.

Anyways yes we ate breakfast and it was awesome.

Then, we went rock climbing again! Keeping with our plan of doing some trad multi-pitch routes, we re-did another legacy route that we’d worked before – this time one called Super-Slab. It’s a pleasant route, with a bit of scary exposure at a few points. Sarah lead the first two pitches, and I took on the third.

Nothing was really out of the ordinary, which was honestly a really nice aspect of the climb. Climbing is, too often, a stressful event with us… swinging leads, making sure we have the right gear, negotiating challenging sections, it gets tough. This time it was different though – we cruised up, ripped past the tough spots, and had a great time!

The day was honestly just a really pleasant and quick one – we climbed, we descended via three long rappels, and we took the long trek out to the car. It was fun!

I’ll admit, the Dairy Queen on the drive home was also pretty fun, same with getting to sleep in our own bed after a night of cramped camping, but I’m pretty confident that’s simply because of how well we’d climbed the previous two days. DQ food is good, as is any semi-fast food, but it’s honestly only truly delicious when you’re covered in chalk dust and exhausted from a few days of good adventure.

Christmas in Italy – Florentine meals

Christmas in Italy – Florentine meals

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.


Italy is known for food.

Delicious, simple, gloriously amazing food.

Just… so much food.  Way more food than I can list in a single post, though I think I’m going to push the envelope of how much I can write before I have to stop and go make some dinner for myself…

These Locale’s are focused on Florence; we had a ton of amazing food in Rome as well, but most of those meals were already written into the various other posts that I’ve put together.  So sit back, enjoy, and make sure you read this before dinner, so that you’re not tempted to have a second dinner afterward.


29-Dec, Dinner

Trattoria Cibreo, a place that Sarah’s aunt recommended. They don’t take reservations, but do open in a bit… so we open a second bottle of wine, and relax a bit more before heading over

    • Legit walk… not too long, but not short either. Actually right near where Sarah and I were earlier in the day
    • We’re the first ones in, but it’s full within 20min of opening
    • Our waiter has the absolutely best Italian accent when speaking English… and looks like he’s from Portland (more on top haircut, long beard, etc…)
    • We get the full experience: wine, first dish, second dish, dessert. It’s glorious and delicious and amazing
    • First Dish = Riboletta, a thick bread-based soup. Tastes better when scooped up onto the bread, ironically
    • Second dish = stuffed rabbit. Ohh man. Rabbit, stuffed with sausage, with cheese and pastry around it. What. So good
    • Dessert = a whole mix, that the whole table shares. Whipped cream dish, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and a few others that were equally amazing. One was chocolate mousse style, and was “a present from the house”



30-Dec, Lunch.

Outside the Duomo, there’s a sandwich shop with a line stretching around the block. We’d noticed it the first day, and made a point of showing up when they opened in order to dodge the line…

    • This isn’t a sandwich shop – this is an experience to be had
    • The shop owner starts by introducing himself, and then explaining the system for this shop: He’ll do a tasting with us of the various cheeses and meats, then we’ll move through the assembly line and construct the actual Panini. Side note: everything here is from Tuscany
    • Meats are pretty stock; what you’d expect from the area
    • Cheeses though… they’re glorious. Five options, varying from fresh to aged, all of which are amazing. Personally I love aged cheeses, so I went with the 45-day aged cheese from Northern Tuscany
    • Bread – they don’t focus as much on the bread, but there are a lot of options anyways… and all of them look amazing. I stick with the simplest of the options, though almost everyone else goes with the olive bread
    • Sandwich gets toasted, we head outside and eat up!



30-Dec, Dinner

Tonight was Sarah and my’s turn to cook, so after an adventure throughout two grocery stores (named Eatily and Conads… weird place, Italy), we came home and set to cooking…

    • Salad = Arugula, Spinach, Parmasean and mozzarella balls, with balsamic glaze
    • Starter = Gnocci with spinach inside, with a pesto sauce
    • Main = Turkey, wrapped in proccutto and glazed in maple syrup. Carrots, onions and sweet potatoes on the side
    • Wine = Chianti


Tuesday, 02-Jan, Dinner. Florentine Steak

    • The bar is called King Grizzly, and it’s unique. It’s an Irish Pub, in Florence, playing reggae music. I get offered a reggae friendship bracelet, for 5 Euro, but decline. Later in the evening, I find one that he accidentally left on the bar. So… free bracelet!
    • Finish up our drinks, then head across for dinner at I’Toscani 3
      • This place is highly rated for Florentine Steak – a special dish from Florence, both for what it is, and how it’s cooked. Florentine Steak is…
      • Have some cured meats as appetizers
      • The main meal – served on one huge wooden tray, carried by two waiters.
      • The steak is very rare and very amazing – gloriously seasoned!
      • Potatoes are the steak’s equal – supremely seasoned, seared on one side, amazing.
      • Peppers and zucchini were good… but nothing exceptional
      • Eggplant… kind of gross
      • Wine was good too
      • After the meal, once we’re done gnawing on the bones, we relax… until we hear the clinking of glasses
      • A waiter brings over bottles of Grappa – five of them total. We each pick our poison, and he pours them out… and one for himself, stating “car’s don’t run without gas!”
      • We drink, and he leaves the bottles for us to experience
    • Stumble back home, via the grocery store to get some more milk
    • Hang out and play a few rounds of Grappa Gubs before bed